What a sad pickle.
At the very end of 2015, RockmusicRaider covered this unknown band called Batushka. A new star on the Black Metal horizon serving us Litourgyia on a platter of mightily sepulchral orthodox chanting.
Apparently from Poland, but very secretive at first, they unloaded their unholy wares on the unsuspecting metal crowd. With an unprecedented success to boot. Specialists and critics gushed over the record as if there was no tomorrow. Finally, a band emerged that could slake that blinding thirst for some real Black Metal in a dry desert populated by posers and wannabe satanists.
Truly, Batushka brought forward a new quality for Black Metal, which again let them build a fan base that they never lost to date. So much so that we all waited for a new album for many a year. But nothing came forward, and we never understood why.
Until a few months ago, that is.
As is often the case, once the money starts flowing, success gets to peoples’ heads. And now the main composer – Krzysztof Drabikowski – sees himself excluded from the band. And feels that his bandmates stole his intellectual property rights, and everything else with it.
From what we hear, Bartłomiej Krysiuk (the vocalist) pretty much disowned Drabikowski from Batushka. Indeed, the project was elaborate and in preparation for some considerable time. With Krysiuk already preparing a brand new album – Hospodi – for release as the official successor to Litourgyia.
And all this happened, whilst Drabikowski also created Panihida, his own new record.
A sneak attack if there ever was one.
The gang around Krysiuk just went ahead, registered the name Batushka as a trademark, and then started to take it away from the founder piece by piece.
Here is what Krzysztof Drabikowski had to say about this:
All of that has the ring of truth to it, but as we were not there, we will never know for sure. Yet, it appears that a guy, who just wanted to run his project, had his work hijacked by his buddies and got thrown overboard. And with lawyers in the game now, the waters risk turning even muddier still.
There were similar stories already in the music industry before, of course. Queensrÿche comes to mind as one. Not exactly in the same context, but they also ended up with parallel universes of the same name for a few years. Or the one that Ghost just went through recently, and which got into calmer waters earlier this year.
Then there’s the story of the drummer.
Marcin ‘Martin’ Bielemiuk owned the drums on Litourgyia, yet left the band in April 2018. He recently opined that much of what’s been said about Krysiuk is not or not quite true.
In fact, it would be Drabikowski being the agent provocateur of the play. Totally narcissistic, the latter apparently refused all that was proposed and let the other bandmates fend for themselves. And – in his own words – “behaved like a Diva” for three years.
Bielemiuk described Drabikowski as someone who could not be managed. Nor would he want to get on board with any of those ‘modern’ quirks of music management, like touring and all that jazz.
You see, this sounds very much like one of those underground black metallers. Those that will never embrace the light of day, but continue to dwell in obscurity.
In a way, the story of the drummer does confirm what we already learned before. It only shows that there are always two sides to it. I guess that the truth will split right down the middle, as is usually the case. And any party will put its own spin on the tale.
So, now we have two Batushkas.
And this is a friggin’ mess. You know, all this came to a head some – seven months ago. So both factions had ample time to find a solution to their mutual problem.
To add insult to injury, Drabikowski released his own version – Panihida – in May 2019, whereas the villains of the piece got their own record – Hospodi – out by July of that same year. Both of them – unsurprisingly – lustily claimed that they have the rights to use the music and the name of the band.
And in the middle lurks Metal Blade Records.
With the current information before us, the role of Metal Blade Records really remains a mystery. Anyone with only scant knowledge of intellectual property rights will know that this situation is a minefield. One that will surely blow up, one way or the other.
The whole story reeks of thievery and of Black Hat style wheeling and dealing. We – of course – all know that controversy sells, but this one has the look and feel of a major clusterfuck in the making.
It is also telling that Metal Blade actually went ahead and disabled comments on their YouTube videos. And – allegedly – tried to limit negative responses as a whole.
In the end, they probably did not want to face the music – and the truth. People in the metal community are usually pretty outspoken, so why go through with the hassle? There is money to be made after all, Batushka was successful before. And you don’t just go ahead and kill that cash cow before milking it. Right?
Yet, all that hazy, shady sneaking about the soundscape, like haunting a lonely graveyard at night, really does not shed a good light on one of the bigger labels of the metal world. So, Cwn Annwn seem to have a point, when they state that Record Labels may have outlived their welcome.
And what about those reviews for Hospodi or Panihida?
Well, RMR will give it some time until the situation becomes a bit less nasty, and until we secured proper copies of the records. The crew gave both a thorough listen, though. And both albums did not really impress us as the debut did.
Panihida – in a certain way – copies from the first record in style and theme. With a rough and somewhat unfinished appearance, and that is a real pity. But – yet again – this does not come as a real surprise.
Hospodi, in turn, gets you a more traditional Black Metal offering. Something that we heard before somewhere, from the vast unholy lands that were already conquered time and again.
So, it could very well be that any (or both) of those Batushkas will shipwreck on those black rocks of the sophomore release. Not because the talent is not there, but because they distracted themselves with unnecessary drama.
The reviews are available on the blog. Have a read to find out how they fared.
And where does that leave the fans?
For a fan, this is no fun trip. Batushka did not live up to expectations. And for sure failed all of them with this dirty laundry nobody really wants to see. One can always argue that you always win some and lose some when there is major change. But as a fan I don’t want to choose sides, I want music from my favorite band. Good music, something that makes me want to buy the record and visit many a festival in turn.
This did not happen, though. And I am really not amused.
A sad pickle, indeed.