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The Mysterious Liturgy - 89%

psychoticnicholai, July 31st, 2017
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Witching Hour Productions (Bandcamp)

I can already hear people crying "gimmick" from miles away, but in all honesty, this mixture of black metal with Orthodox liturgical chants feels very natural and certainly interesting. These mysterious robed figures find a way to blend the already dark and ethereal sounds of booming medieval church choirs with the unholy heaviness of black metal, and make it work. Batushka creates a new take on bizarre black metal, without sounding forced or ridiculous. This is dead-serious in the monumental levels of darkness and grand rhythms to make this sound like an infernal version of the holy hymns sung in the ancient past, with more weight and power than before. Even if the chanting weren't there, the music is mighty and biting enough to stand firm. But, the vocals on here act as an instrument all their own, adding another layer to the melody of Litourgiya and they blend well with the music on offer, as well as giving it some added strength. Here we get something inventive in a good package that I hope gets built-upon and explored more.

The method of creating a rich sound with a spiritual bent is used very effectively on Litourgiya with the entire package sounding monstrous, epic, and strong. The riffs are not neglected at all and make for some very thick and murky passages. These passages are crushing and meditative at the same time. You think that the vocals would take primacy on Litourgiya and they certainly are strong, but the guitar is certainly still in position to write some especially weighty tremolo riffs. On to said vocals now, they are done with plenty of strength and enough tact to really fit in. They also resonate like the winds of the stratosphere with all their might. The vocals tower high and mighty like storm clouds over a valley ready to let loose the thunder. And like thunder, they are low and threatening while still being of the air. They are so powerful that the more regular black metal screams on here get outperformed by clean choirs. Fans of a low, clean-sung approach to black metal a la Root will probably enjoy this, though this is far more regular black metal-tinged, more serious, heavier, and less fantastical. The sound of Litourgiya is rich and ethereal, with plenty of ominous presence to boot.

Much of the music on here does a good enough job with the massive sound presence of Batushka and that leads us to some interesting pieces. Some of these songs have riffs that stick and carry a lot of charisma with them. I find myself frequently returning to songs like "Yekteniya 3" and "6" with the guitar riffs being enough to bring me back to them and with a strong vocal delivery to make these litanies all the more infectious and powerful. The others are nothing to sneer at, as this is a very consistent album with many solid pieces. Again, comparing them to Root, don't expect epic sagas like Root makes. This is one area that I can definitely see potential for improvement and more developed songwriting. But what you get is still aggressive with the presence of a giant and the atmosphere of a seance with the songs having a strong epic undercurrent to them.

Litourgiya seemed like it could become a gimmick, but what we got was a mighty and developed sound where ominous church choirs are blended as the primary vocal method with a wall of crushing black metal. Fans of the unorthodox in metal will probably find a bit to love with Batushka and their moody variety of corrupted ecclesiastical black metal. There's some room for growth, and it could do with some more developed songs before I would ever call it a masterpiece, but Batushka have started on a solid foundation. That foundation provides us with plenty of songs that grow on the listener and have loads of power. It's a seamless blend of two dark genres with a heft that really drives home an apocalyptic and immersive atmosphere. This is very odd, but also a display of strength that I can't help but enjoy.