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Destructive and Angry - 90%

eletrikk, September 27th, 2019

In the wake of the literal fuck-load of drama between Bart and Krzysztof, both bands decided to release songs, Bart releasing a single from his upcoming record, and Krzysztof releasing one from his as well. Who would release their album first? Well, it turned out to be Krzysztof, and it is totally beat out Bart's version. Also, from here on out, I will be using Krzysztof's nickname, Derph. Anyways, Derph has the spirit of Batushka, the heart, the soul, and body as well. He knows what direction Batushka needs to go in, not Bart. I don't care if Bart's version is sold more, Batushka lies with Derph.

The mixing of Панихида is very similar to Litourgiya, but this one has a little more fuzz on everything. Not to the point where it is really audible, but the classic black metal lofi sound is more present here. From what is known, Derph has done absolutely everything on this record, so I have to give him a lot of credit for making everything as clear as it is. Most one man projects have a very bad fuzz about them from poor recording or mixing, but Derph knew what he was doing. Hell, a lot of full black metal bands don't sound as good as this, and that is saying something. The guitars sound just as heavy as Litourgiya, the bass is present and accounted for, an amazing plus from me always, and the drums are in your face. My biggest gripe is the fact the vocals are somewhat muffled. I don't know why, but they can impede the listening. It doesn't affect it to heavily, but when the clean vocals come on, I just wish there was more substance to them.

Speaking of vocals, despite their muffled nature, they are so damn good. Even though I don't like Bart, of who was present on the last record, I can admit to his vocal prowess. With this record, however, his vocals are easily challenged by Derph, and in some places surpassed. Derph has a much better clean voice for the chants, and with his admittedly lower range, his vocals provide more of the Gregorian-chant vibe that makes Batushka so amazing. His harsh vocals are also very good as well. Derph can't hit highs like Bart, but he can easily overpower his mid range in intensity and just sheer force. He doesn't try to go for insane highs in both harsh and clean vocals, and he is able to keep up the attack for the entire record. Also, Лех and Черный Монах provide some beautiful clean chants throughout as well. I will also remark on lyrics here, or lack of them, of which is fine. I'd rather not translate Polish or Russian, as I'd probably butcher it.

The instrumentation is beautiful and mesmerizing, just like Litourgiya, but angrier. Now, I know that Derph had been writing Панихида for about two years on and off, before the whole thing happened with Bart, but I believe that Bart's constant pressuring of Derph to release Панихида may have been a factor into making this record sound more aggressive than the first record. The guitars and bass are a little chunky, but not totally reliant on the top two strings. The song structures vary greatly, the intro song being a slow intro into Панихида, but the second is much more fast paced and in your face. There are plenty of moments like this in Панихида, but that one is my particular favorite. The drumming by Derph is absolutely superb, and it shows that he is a great multi-instrumentalist.

So, in all, Панихида is an amazing album by Derph. In the wake of something that could have ruined Derph, he pulled through, finished this record, and absolutely killed it. The mixing is damn good for such a heavy record, but the clean vocals can be somewhat quiet at times. Even with the fact that they are muffled, the vocals are done very well. Derph is a hell of a screamer, rivaling Bart in the scream department. Лех and Черный Монах provide some gorgeous clean vocals and chants. The instrumentation is pretty much on par with Litourgiya, even surpassing some of the quieter moments. Overall, an amazing album that is the true successor to Litourgiya.

A tale of two Batushki: Plodding mass - 60%

kluseba, September 13th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

Batushka released a surprising debut record with Litourgiya that combined Eastern Orthodox Liturgy with blistering black metal elements. The band however had a nasty split and there are now two bands that exist under the Batushka moniker. This group here revolves around songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and original founder Krzysztof Drabikowski. The other group is centered around vocalist Bartłomiej Krysiuk. Both bands went to court to claim to be the rightful interpretation of Batushka and both bands quickly tried to release new material after the split to pull fans on either side.

Regardless of what might have actually happened, what ultimately matters to me is the music itself. From that point of view, Panikhída is a slight disappointment to me. The ugly cover artwork and bland song titles desperately try to connect to the groundbreaking debut but the music isn't as atmospheric, enigmatic and inspired as it was four years earlier. The sacral choirs have been reduced and only make a few short and mostly uninspired appearances on this release. Instead, this record is much closer to atmospheric black metal with blistering cold riffs, varied drum play and sinister vocals. This approach works well in a few songs such as the brutal and sinister ''Песнь 6 '' and the apocalyptic and rhythmic ''Песнь 8'' that ends the album on a high note. However, the new approach is missing the unique atmosphere that made Batushka stand out in the first place. The vocals have grit but lack variation. The cold guitar riffs sound equally repetitive after a few tunes. The varied drum play on the other hand is decent. A few sacral choirs employed with care at least partially bring back the magic of the predecessor.

Batushka's Panikhída has several promising elements such as gritty vocals, dynamic drums and atmospheric choirs but the songwriting feels rushed and repetitive. The album sounds as if Drabikowski had had enough ideas for a decent extended play of four songs but felt the need to quickly release a full length effort before his former band mate and concurrent Bartłomiej Krysiuk could. Without trying to claim this or the other band is the rightful new version of Batushka, Krysiuk's new record Hospodi sounds much more entertaining, fleshed out and inspired than Drabikowski's at times repetitive, plodding and bland Panikhída that offers solid atmospheric black metal but can't compete with the unique predecessor or reinvent it creatively.

There can be Only One! - 90%

TheSlayFer, June 6th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

One of the most pleasant surprises on black metal back in 2015 was the debut album by then mysterious polish band Batushka and from there the band made a large splash on the Polish scene and across the world of extreme metal. Unfortunately the success of Litourgiya and clout Batushka earned caused the now very public legal dispute between founder Krzysztof Drabikowski and former singer Bartłomiej Krysiuk and both parties are planning to continue using the name. But all that is beside the point now which is the album that Drabikowski released online out of nowhere to the surprise of everyone familiar with Batushka and frankly if there was any doubt of who was the mastermind behind what made Litourgiya so good is definitely Krzysztof Drabikowski aka “Христофор”.

Panikhida or “Панихида” is the name of the album which roughly translates to “Requiem” is indeed the follow up to Litourgiya many were waiting and wanting, musically the album picks up where Litourgiya left off, the unique blend of Polish black metal and Orthodox Gregorian chanting is back in full force but this time the music takes a much more layered and even melodic direction, its much more refined and focused than in Litourgiya while maintaining the atmosphere and ethos of that same album. Due to the legal dispute over the Batushka name Drabikowski has had to compose the album entirely by himself, although for this album he had the help of Lech or Лех; his original pick for lead vocals of Batushka but was sadly unavailable and Черный Монах; one of the three backing vocalists of Batushka as guest vocalists. However that doesn’t detract from how this album has turned out, Drabikowski succeeded in expanding Batushka’s sound. The biggest standout of how much of an upgrade this album from a musical perspective is the second song, simply titled Песнь II; it’s the band’s longest track and has a unique structure, going from fast to mid-pace to an ambient dirge which those with a keen ear will identify as the intro melody from Batushka’s live concerts in 2016 and 2017.

Furthermore the album has a much more somber tone than Litourgiya, that album was very opulent and even operatic in places, but for Panikhida, the tone is much more melancholic and forlorn, which is very appropriate considering the title, since a “Requiem” is a mass dedicated for the dead, a memorial service and the music’s overall tone and atmosphere have this overwhelming and cold feel that perfectly encapsulates this particular theme of remembering the dead. One issue worth highlighting is that the production of this album is a bit more rough than its predecessor, understandable since Derph had to work on the album himself on his own home studio and while that may be an issue for some, it's not a deal breaker and in my opinion it actually enhances the overall experience, the echoing and distant vocals help create the dark atmosphere of mourning that the music evokes, however for those who notice production flaws it may take them a few spins to really appreciate the album.

All in all this album is everything any Batushka fan could want and its a step forward for the band's sound, it’s a cold and ruthless album while also being very elegant and refined in its musical compositions and maintaining everything that made Batushka so unique and interesting. Regardless of what happens with the whole “Drabikowski v Krysiuk” dispute the music speaks for itself and many, including myself consider this album, the true Batushka sophomore record.

Best tracks: Песнь II, Песнь III, Песнь VII, Песнь VIII

Good, exceptional, flawed - 65%

bimu, June 4th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

What do you expect from a second album? Judging from the onslaught of Batushka-related discussion on the Internet, most listeners expect a copy of the debut and this is basically what they get with “Панихида”. Or do they?

A cursory listen to this collection of songs does indeed leave the impression that here we have a worthy successor to “Litourgiya”. Further listens, however, reveal aspects of the album that produce a growing feeling of general disappointment. Not huge disappointment, but still.

First of all, the vocals on the album are extremely uneven, haphazardly mixed, and the lack of Bart’s vocalisations is generally detrimental to the music. The chants sound either sampled from Orthodox choir recordings or sung with a certain shyness and thus placed low in the mix. There are also several places where out of tune notes appear. The harsh vocals, on the other hand, are quite powerful. The guitar playing is good if not exceptional and I am pretty sure that the drums were actually recorded by Martin, as they sound pretty much as they did on “Litourgiya”.

Then there are production issues. The album sounds a bit off in general. The main problem are the aforementioned vocals, mixed inexpertly and in a seemingly random manner at times. Also, while the 8-string guitars give the music its characteristic feel, the bottom frequencies sound muddled and would have been more adequate with more definition. What is more, the drum sound is marred with strange EQ choices and lack of clarity (plus a slight ‘rustling’) in the cymbals. Still, the low compression and the fact that mid-frequencies are cut gives the album the characteristic ‘open’ feel, which has been, in my opinion, one of the key features of the band.

To the point now: the compositions. This is where things get a bit tricky. Two compositions on the album are examples of those aspects of Batushka’s music that are realized excellently. “Песнь 1” is a slow, atmospheric piece of Orthodox music translated into metal and it works amazingly well. Why? Because of the harmonic content and the clever use of transitions between riffs (or rather chord progressions in this particular song). As it was released as a single, this probably gave people a slightly wrong impression of the album as – and here I’m saying it – it actually LACKS much of the expected Orthodox component.

The second excellent composition is “Песнь 4’, where furious stop/start blasting, a post-black metal feel, and the generally engaging pacing make it a great listen. An excellent song all around, but not due to any Orthodox leanings. And this is pretty much the case with all the songs on “Панихида”: “Песнь 3” has some cool pauses and a generally inspired compositional approach; “Песнь 5” and “Песнь 6” are largely forgettable and sometimes even cringey due to their unfocused pacing, awkward mixing, and off-key chants; “Песнь 7” and “Песнь 8” are a big improvement with better realized choral parts, to the point that when they actually appear, the listeners realizes that the Orthodox element has actually been missing from the album for some time. I have a feeling that for some reason Krzysztof restrains himself from using Orthodox harmonies too much (which is a mistake) and the comparably poor-quality choral parts unfortunately do not succeed in ‘batushkizing’ the music strongly enough.

So yes, the music is not a copy of “Lituorgiya” and despite some intriguing new compositional elements, many of the differences – compared to the debut – consist of shifts into more commonplace territories, which is – ironically – the argument most commonly directed at Bart’s Batushka by Krzysztof’s fans (let us not dwell on the pathetic extra-musical arguments spread by people with no real knowledge of the issues within the band).

So what’s the verdict? In my opinion “Панихида” is a good, at times exceptional, but sometimes also deeply flawed follow-up, which only goes to show that strife in a band is detrimental to the music. This is in fact really sad and no amount of publicity and taking sides in the conflict will change it. Now I’m waiting for the other Batushka’s album.

Between the old and the new.. - 94%

mork_mysteriis, May 29th, 2019

Almost 4 years have passed since Litourgiya was released. Without a doubt it was an album that came with a new proposal in black metal in general; the mixture of Byzantine voices and black metal gave a special flavor to this band that quickly caught me. With everything that happened and after the sad news with the dispute of the band, we thought that Batushka would come to an end, but luckily that did not happen. Panihida is undoubtedly the true successor of Litourgiya transiting the same path.

At a general level, as mentioned above, it follows the same line in terms of music and voices. The sound of the guitars with mid-doom touches and the unmistakable atmosphere give the album its characteristic touch, but it's not strictly similar to the first album. I see the incorporation of new voices, although minimal, the drums and especially the double pedal in some tracks excel, the sound of the bass is identical in itself to the first disc. The cuts and changes of melodies in the songs are also a novelty because it makes the new disc a little melodic, but that does not move away from the initial album. You can appreciate female vocals or that is what it seems, as it is quite successful and brings a special credit to the album.

On the other hand, Panihida is similar to the first release of Batushka. The cover of the album is perhaps the most similar but with a little revealing difference in the blood that flows from the eyes in the image. There is a lot of meaning, maybe it is left to interpretation of each one, I see it as a message regarding the dispute of the band as such, a 'requiem' to the past. They are only approximations and each one will give you the meaning you want.

Another thing to add, I want to highlight the incorporation (in the track "Песнь 2") of the lines of the intro that Batushka habitually used in live performances. It could be interpreted as a passage or a bridge between Litourgiya and Panihida.

Finally I wanted to add that although I waited a long time, the wait was worth it and this album is already one of my favorite releases from 2019, not only for what Batushka means within the scene, but also in terms of composition. We do not ask for something new. This album focused on a fixed style musically and did not mutate at all from the band's initial sound.

And They're Back - 92%

Drawn_In_Black, May 28th, 2019

One of the best surprises I've received this year as far as music goes is this morning's endeavor into Instagram. The first thing I saw in my feed was a screenshot of this album on Band-Camp from the (real) Batushka page. Of course, anybody in their right mind would go right into Band-Camp and listen to the album right then and there, which I did. I was not disappointed.

Just from looking at Panihida, it looks like the Batushka we all know and love. The cover art is even very similar to that of the previous release. I was not prepared for the surprises that Batushka had in store for us, however. One of these pleasant surprises was that some of the tracks seem to be a lot more, dare I say, melodic? This is actually a very positive aspect to me, seeing as my favorite metal genre is melodic death metal. The band just seems to have strayed from continuous blast beats and harsh vocal and replaced them with slower and melodic sections. The overall sound of the entire album is still the same sort of traditional black metal sound that Batushka adopted in Litourgiya, however. In some ways, though, it differs greatly from your average black metal album. Each instrument is brought out effectively in the mix, such as with the bells and clean vocals used in various parts in the songs. In much of black metal, these areas of the compositions would be lost in the immense echo and chaos in all of the drums and tremolo guitars. Many of the songs also deviate from the blistering fast speed of most black metal. This record makes a contrast from this stereotype by causing blast beats and obvious tremolo picking to be used more sparingly to bring out emphasis to specific parts in each track.

The change in the vocals is also a significant change. Whereas the vocals were more or less centered on the harsh vocals on Litourgiya, Panihida has more of an even mixture of both. I was especially glad to see this change, seeing as the Gregorian style vocals were some of the more memorable parts of Litourgiya. Each of the tracks are also more memorable in the sense of that they are more differentiated from each other than in Litourgiya. They are also more polished this time around which is nice seeing as the last release, although very spectacular and beautiful, seemed to run on with the same kind of dry tone. Even with all of these changes, it is a pleasant thing to note that the overall sound didn't change too much. They progressed without becoming a totally different band in the process.

All in all, let it be known to the general audience that this is the Batushka. This is the Batushka from 2015 that we all grew to love. If you loved Litouriga, you will most certainly love Panihida. Stay clean, stay metal.