Batushka – Hospodi (2019) – Review

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The big question was if or if not we should review the two offerings of Batushka that are currently out. Because the members of this band caused themselves more trouble than necessary and generated a major controversy in the process. Which is – of course – not necessarily a good thing, as this wastes energy and resources. Energy that could have been used to write stellar material, not feeding egos and paying lawyers.

It is also an unarguable fact that Hospodi would not exist without this unnecessary drama that spilled into the open lately. Yet, in the end, all is about music, not stupid brawls. I thus decided to give both albums a chance to stand and shine nonetheless. After all, chaos breeds opportunity. Sometimes at least, and as the lore goes.

So, here’s to Hospodi, the one record that Bartłomiej Krysiuk boasts as the real Batushka. Panihida will be the subject of a separate post.

Right off the bat, Hospodi immediately veers away from this sepulchral mix of chants and down-home Black Metal riffing that Litourgyia is famous for. This trademark groove garnished with orthodox chants and lathered in Atmospheric Black Metal that you could hardly escape from. And – indeed – get enough of.

Yet, this new record tries – somewhat desperately – to maintain that link nonetheless. With some make-believe pseudo-ritualistic soundscape and hollow chanting that – I guess – should remind us of the roots this new record bases itself on.

For sure, Hospodi is no cut-and-paste of its older sibling. And that’s fine too. Because the RMR deck crew here would not have fancied yet another chanting marathon à la Litourgyia. A new edition of same, same but different would have sent Krysiuk and his merry men onto the road to perdition.

And don’t make the mistake to underestimate the record either, because somehow this author is seen as the rebel in this play.

Krysiuk pulls all the registers Black Metal has to offer. So in a sense, if you look to soothe your cravings for tremolo pickings and hellish rasps, then you have come to the right place. Hospodi delivers all that with a bobcat intensity that mirrors the harshest moments Myrkur could muster on M. So if that is your fancy, you surely will get your fill.

But not that fast.

All that rasping about the scene somehow lacks originality, this whiff of ownership and authenticity that is so important to a good record. Batushka offers a blatantly generic version of Black Metal that made me scratch my head as of the first note. The tracks undoubtedly play powerfully and with gusto, on a solid footing of tremolo and blast beats, but with an almost bland taste at times. Like yesterday’s soup that you heated up a few times too many.

To add insult to injury, Batushka delivers a style of songwriting with sometimes well-worn nuances. As if other bands contributed to the album somewhere in the back office. Stuff and styles we kinda enjoyed before, yet in different contexts.

Krysiuk also unearthed age-old metaphors. Like the tolling bell to gather the troops to attend the concert – I guess – in Wozglas. Or to commence Black Mass, whatever takes your fancy. Albeit that bells have really been growing stale since AC/DC and Black Sabbath famously used them ad nauseam so many decades ago. Even if they still get frequent use with ritualistic Black Metal outfits like Darkend.

Yet on the other hand, the production does provide some sort of a meaty opulence that we often found refreshing. A relentless attack on your eardrums that does remind me of solid Black Metal offerings.

And sometimes the Bartłomiej Krysiuk version of Batushka serves some hot pockets of excellence, like this juicy tune on Polunoszica. The track is just delicious with its typically enraged Black Metal at first. Which then pompously disintegrates into this dark chorus that I found difficult to resist.

Yet in the end, Hospodi just noodles a tad too much around this well-worn Black Metal soundscape of its own making. It has got its interesting moments, but most of it is pretty predictable. A huge serving of major tremolo pieces and – at times – endless riffing on an even keel, with Krysiuk’s rasps coming in almost at desperate levels.

In a sense, the record is neither here nor there. It fails to convince, to excite, to incite that lust for Black Metal that will make you yearn for more. In other words, the record is neither terribly good, nor is it awfully bad.

You can enjoy this pot of Black Metal stew and be content with it, true. But know that you will find exactly the same texture and taste with many of its brethren in this well-traveled genre.

And this is what made us – finally – turn away.

Ed’s note: Don’t forget to check out the new EP Raskol.

Record Rating: 5/10| Label: Metal Blade Records  | Web: Official Site
Release date: 12 July 2019

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