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Batushka - Litourgiya - 90%

Ylmir, January 1st, 2016

This is an album that likely would have flown under the radar for me if not for some "end of year" lists, of which many either mentioned this as an interesting release or a stellar one. My initial reaction was that this was an album worth at least a spin or two and my first impressions were similar; an interesting album. I put it to rest for a short while, regarding it as a somewhat niche release, but quickly came back feeling it was maybe something more special. As so often is the case, brilliant releases may require a few more runs before their full power becomes apparent to the listener.

I've heard many black metal artist use orthodox chants before. Most merely use them as intros, interludes or as a part of ambient, atmosphere building sections. Litourgiya does something different and more.

This is a brutal album, an epic if you will. This is a weird combination which I'm not sure I've heard the likes of before. As mentioned before many artist employ orthodox chants as meas to build atmosphere. Batushka take a step further and fully integrate the orthodox chants and singing into the songs to create a truly unique experience. In this case, the sum really is greater than the individual parts.

At it's foundation it is blast beat and tremolo driven black metal but doomier sections are used to give the chants space to shine. Overall the vibe is heavy, both in the riffs as well as a direct result of the doomy sections. That said, the album definitely has a lot of fast paced black metal sections. In a way the two complement one another. The faster sections seem to make the slower, heavier sections even heavier and in return they give a contrast for the faster sections to shine.

At the time of writing not much information is available on the band members, only that they are based in Poland and are no newcomers to the scene. The blacker parts remind a lot of Mgła who are of course Polish as well. I, for one, would not be surprised to see M. of Mgła listed as a member later on. As far as those black metal centric parts is concerned, there is not really much new to talk about. The classic blast beat patterns and raspy black metal shrieks followed by tremolo riffs are maybe nothing special on their own. However, it is the combination and active part of the orthodox chanting and singing which really makes the album unique. There is no need for orthodox atmosphere building sections or interludes to make the album stand out when the songs themselves take full care of that by flawless integration of this side.

As far as individual songs goes there is, to be honest, not much to say. This is because the album shines best as a whole, consumed in it's entirety, preferably in a dark room at maximum volume. The one song that stands out in particular is part 7 which includes no shrieks or screams, only pure orthodox ecstasy. An what a song, the ending turns my brain to porridge every time. The opening number gives perhaps the best combination of both sides while the other songs seem more black metal favored with orthodox doomy parts carefully and beautifully intertwined.

Overall, it's a very surprising and exceptionally strong album. This is one I would highly recommend, not only to orthodox black metal enthusiasts, but too all purveyors of the darker side of music. Hell, even my non-metal friends found this interesting. As far as rating goes, at the moment 90/100 will do, if this still melts my brain in a few years it will deserve a full 100%.