Review Summary: Two thirds of the creative with three fourths of the fan support makes one half of a Batushka record.
Who would have guessed this？ Batushka have found themselves in a shroud of drama lately. Things were said, accusations thrown, lawsuits filed, friendships broken and fanbase divided. And even though it is probably already clear, who the real Batushka is, there still will be a heavy cloud of doubt for a long time. Who is really to blame for Batushka’s outfall: Is it Krys’ behaviour and constant delays of album release or is it Bart’s backstabbing method of copyrighting？ Which Batushka is the trve Batushka: the one by the guy who wrote and recorded majority of the instruments or the one by the guy who made people actually pay attention to the band？ What will this mean for the future of the band: will either Krys or Bart become the full owners of the Batushka brand or will we forever remain in this creative schism？
But those are most likely questions for the lawyers. In the meantime, as a starry-eyed optimist, I still believe that for the sake of metal, we should all take a step back, relax a little and judge objectively. If Bart’s Hospodi
turns out to be a genre-defining grandiosity, in spite of all the distaste fans have for him now, I will come out and say it is so. And if Krys’ Panihida
is nothing more than a watered-down rehash of Liturgiya
, I will also be completely honest with myself and everyone, even though he seems to be a fan favourite. And while we still have a few months to wait for Bart’s output, Krys already made his available. And so how did the bigger fan favourite of the two fare？
First off, the most noticeable aspect about this is that the vocals are mostly replaced with choral singing and the more traditional black metal shrieks are mostly drowned out on the background, as if to hide something. There is no word out yet on the personnel behind this, but seeing as Krys states himself as the sole composed and executor of the album, I will go ahead and assume that he is also the singer. Say what you will, but Bart had a unique vocal presence, which is rather lacking here. Certainly, Krys is a skilled vocalist and all things considered, his rusty growls can be engrossing and nauseating, see “Песнь 2”. But that is what they are, rusty growls. Bring them out into forefront and you’ll most likely hear that they come off more as deathly heaves. Definitely a suiting fit for an extreme metal record, but struggling to move along with even the choir. Therefore they are hidden in the back, behind all the music.
Heck, Krys is master of the instrumental, no questions about that. So why not create a purely choir-led black metal record that is primarily built on your instrumental finesse？ He clearly had a concrete vision for the album: less melodic atmosphere, more relentlessness. Or so it comes off most of the time. The vocals are mixed in very oddly; they feel detached and layered in as what seems like an afterthought. Take “Песнь 3”, where you can barely hear them. And then take “Песнь 1”, “Песнь 4” and “Песнь 7” that each have slower moments or louder vocal mixing, in which the gnarly snarls feel mostly piercing. As for the music itself, expect nothing less of a harshness galore. It barely slows down and for the most part blasts you with a hectic dose of that tried and true Batushka brand of production. But the song-writing is not it. For whatever reason, the subtle writing that was partially responsible for making Liturgiya
so outstanding is missing here. This album delves into much, much less melodic territories and outside of general production and heavy emphasis on choral vocals, nothing much suggests that this is indeed Batushka. That signature tonal grandiosity doesn’t come until the very last track, “Песнь 8”.
So take it with a grain of salt. By all means, Batushka is back and with all of the creative force of their main musical mastermind at the helm. But whether or not that force is headed in the right direction is disputable. By the looks of it, Bart’s project wants to delve into more ordinary black metal, while Krys admittedly tried ambitiously to head the project someplace new. He tried to make it less reliant on the more popular atmospheric elements, he tried to make it more occult and he tried to make it less flashy. Perhaps that is why it took him so long to make that Bart grew impatient. And perhaps, had Bart not demanded Krys to be faster, he could have been the final contributing factor to this album’s greatness and all of those ideas and artistic decisions Krys was heading for could have even surpassed Liturgiya
. But alas, we will very likely never know what Krys and Bart’s second collaboration could have been like. Panihida
is certainly a triumphant record, but a bitterly dissonant one.