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Unpredictable and unforgiving black metal. - 95%

DSOfan97, April 29th, 2016

Batushka were formed last year by three Polish musicians who are said to be well-known in the scene but decided to keep their identities secret. Overtime, there were various advertisements of the album being described as 'KILLER RELEASE!'. But the hype is rarely a friend and when it is combined with mediocre releases it becomes a truly dangerous foe. Countless bands have been thrown in the trenches of obscurity after releasing dud albums that had been lauded by their label as masterpieces...

That being said, Witching Hour is the most honest label I have ever come across. The album is masterfully crafted, it doesn't feature any weak links or any fillers. Black metal and doom metal have never being so well blended before. The band tuned their guitars so low that at some points they sound like distorted basses! The slow pace of the first songs slowly accelerates until it reaches a raging tempo with the exception of the second song that is very fast. Another thing that you will notice is the harrowing atmosphere of the record. There is a gloomy feeling lurking in every track, starting from the very first second and finishing when the album ends.

The guitars are not overproduced whereas a more raw production has been pursued consisting of merely two easily audible effects: heavy distortion and reverb. The band has used clean guitars as well but the album in its majority is full of tremolo picked riffs and bombastic rhythm guitar lines. The very low tuning makes it sound even more abyssal and fierce while the bass adds a thicker layer of stringed instruments. The drums are pretty much basic stuff: some blasts here and there and maybe even some slower moments.

And then there are the orthodox chants. Out of all the components that make this album such an adventure, the one that stands out for me is the chanting. I felt those needed an exclusive paragraph because instead of being just the top of the iceberg, they evolve into the album's epicenter. I am not sure wether those are actual psalms that are sung in Russian Orthodox churches, or if Batushka wrote them themselves. That does not matter that much since the album cover clarifies the band's blasphemous intentions.

Batushka's debut is unpredictable and unforgiving. It is arguably the best debut of 2015 and I am glad I didn't check it until the new year because it would have fucked my top 10 list up. However I cannot deny that it would definitely deserve to do so. Nothing more needs to be said. If you can obtain a copy go on and grab it. Such albums are rarely released. Indeed Witching Hour, this is a 'KILLER RELEASE'!

Favorite tracks: 'Yekteniya III', 'Yekteniya IV', 'Yekteniya V'.