Review: BATUSHKA “Раскол/Raskol” [Witching Hour Productions]

Review: BATUSHKA “Раскол/Raskol” [Witching Hour Productions]

- in Reviews

One of the Polish black metal leaders Batushka, famous for controversial split into two bands, continue to create music under the same names (Батюшка and Batushka). So this time Batushka of Барфоломей has released EP “Raskol” (with the help from label Witching Hour Productions). Before that there was some teasing with singles, so only two songs on this release are actually new.

Certainly the break-up didn’t do both musicians any good, ‘cos the quality of material in both cases sensibly lowered; their artistic duet in due time created something truly unique on the metal scene. They skillfully combined liturgical Orthodox music with atmospheric black metal, provoking the huge wave of hate, especially in Russia and Belarus with protests against their concerts. Now both Барфоломей and Христофор consider their own versions of Batushka as one and only, so they both try to be more active and to outwit the rival.

In the past year Барфоломей has released his first solo album “Hospodi”, so the material of “Raskol” continues the previous job, but with annoying feeling, that it was created in a hurry. EP lasts only for thirty minutes, but still it’s too monotonous and depressively gloomy. This music is more minimalistic as compared with “Литоургиiа”, and it lacks memorable moments and emotional highlights. But overall “Raskol” follows the traditions of chosen genre, but without this strong impact and spiritual pressure, as if the core of the music itself lost all the lifeblood.

“Raskol” is divided into 5 Irmos (the initial verse of each individual ode in a canon, sung by the choir), and the music is filled with spiritual feeling, but from the very dark perspective. All the songs are similar to each other, all are performed in mid-tempo, only in rare moments the pace accelerates due to rapid drumming, but regardless, the general rhythm is pretty much the same, making the songs drabber. There are lots of acoustic passages, mostly in the beginning and in the end, and they sound gloomy and dark, but the church choir in the background creates total desolation. In “Irmos III” the acoustic outro is far too long, this is the saddest and most dismal song on the record, more fitting to depressive black metal with emotional screaming. The same can be applied to all the songs, the bitterness and desperation of vocals suits more to DSBM. The compositions “Irmos II” and “Irmos V” have some doom influence, slow and solemn (but without symphonic elements), so the contrast is indeed audible, when the faster black metal passages follow. This time the guitars are primitive and minimalistic, only the song “Irmos III” has some juicy and solid riffs at the forefront. The ambient elements are scarce on “Raskol”, making it more melancholic and tranquil. Mainly the album sounds in minor atmosphere, only the song “Irmos V” sounds more positive. But the main decoration on this release is undoubtedly the church choir, which empowers the music with restrained sense of enlightenment, and immerses into the deep abyss of darkness as well, making the black metal even more desperate and mature.

Maybe the fans of Batushka will get their reunion someday, but for now we can enjoy the creative ideas from both projects. Христофор is much closer to old Batushka material, but Барфоломей simplifies his music, making it more minimalistic, but at the same time more grim and hopeless, even the cover art shows the bloody suffering, perfectly illustrating the mood of the album. And now we have a controversial situation, one Batushka is good, but two Batushkas… are twice as much material from Batushka! And the point is what is more important, quality or quantity?

Release date: August 7th, 2020

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