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Blackened mass - 91%

Homo Sapiens Metallis, April 28th, 2016

Back when the entire Orthodox direction within black metal was indeed synonymous with novelty, ingenuity and experimentation, this was clearly reflected by the number of such artists. You had the most mentioned and certified candidate, that is Deathspell Omega, but it did take a number of years for the other artists to appear that would even dare to create music to rival or reflect the sound Deathspell Omega had concocted in whatever Typhonian trance they were in. Nowadays, when the said scene is oversaturated and encumbered by an army of copycats and clearly influenced bands, even the given genre seems to become stranded in a sea of stagnancy, with artists continuously opting for the easily discernible dissonance or tempos, that while still difficult to perform and achieve, hearken back to the bygone glorydays of the movement. But all may not be lost, as finally a dash of fresh air, or decomposing putrefaction, if you like, has taken the scene by its mighty and morbid genius. And its name is Batushka.

The relatively little information available about the band members does not facilitate or imperil the appreciation of their sound in any way, as Polish acts are not as prone and intent to experiment as would be expected from such a largely developed and established scene. Yes, there are bands such as Furia and Morowe, and there were bands such as Lux Occulta, that hazarded to expand and distort the frontiers of black metal, but they are but a miniscule percentage. Hyper speed blasting and tremolos are still the trademark and backbone of the Polish movement. And Batushka is the precise opposite of this, with a heavily atmospheric and ritualistic sound, heavily embedded in doom metal, and with certain elements borrowed from the post metal movement, merely in the fact that it so easily embraces the musical elements alien to metal in general and black metal in particular. The chanting so frequently forefronted adds an otherwordly and nightmarish quality to the music, and begins so promptly, with the very first song “Yekteniya I”, and when combined with the typical shrieks, sows even more terror and discomfort. The riffs are mostly mid-paced and doomy, and remain so even when the drums picks up the pace and fury, with bass thumping beneath it all for that additional annihilation. just in case one happened to be at ease with what they were hearing. A bell is then added amidst all of the confusion to further disorient and decimate your senses. Another standout track “Yekteniya III” also opens ceremonially, before descending into a hectic collage of emotional and tremendous riffs and scales, with provoking and unnerving shrieks and cleans, and crushing and climactic changes in tempo. It is also the track with the most attention placed on riffing, unlike the ritualistic tendency of the other ones. “Yekteniya V” also has a ridiculous range of vocals and tempos, all supported by adequate aggression placed between the more emotional and liturgical elements. With eerie female chanting and a sinister bass sound, “Yekteniya VI” is perhaps the most easily distinguishable of the bunch, although the amount of aggression and ceremony carefully distributed during its duration is on pair with the rest of the tracks. These tracks could perhaps portray the amount of ideas and talent behind this band, but at no means do the other ones suffer creativity and conviction

Without bands such as Batushka, I can hardly picture the black metal scene achieving the same level of genius and glory it was once graced with. Yes, the furious blasting and ominous riffing are the most identifiable and essential elements of it, uncompromisable and inextricable from the overall sound, but there are so many external influences and possible borrowings, that it seems ridiculous that such a major part of the scene is willing to persist on obsolete tenets, without willingness to color them with at least some memorability and versatility. Thankfully, artists such as Batushka realize the risk and absurdity of this, and are willing to give the scene what it deserves: some much-needed and oft-neglected revision. 91/100