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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.