Review: Batushka ”Царю Небесный (Carju Niebieskiej)” [Witching Hour Productions]

Review: Batushka ”Царю Небесный (Carju Niebieskiej)” [Witching Hour Productions]

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User Rating : 2.7 (3 votes)

Slavonic slayers Batushka’s stageshow is undeniably impressive. Full of gothic splendour, embellished with arcane Russian Orthodox mysticism running through their elaborate and impeccably observed rituals, the masked brigade have been delivering their sumptuous sermons across Europe for a number of years now.

An internecine head-to-head resulting in an untimely and acrimonious division of the chief players has overshadowed the Batushka brand a little, with fans either left with a boot in each camp or throwing their lot behind one or the other. We’ll leave that wrangle to the legal beagles to earn their money and focus purely on what we find at our feet.

Atmospherics meld with aural brilliance and without the latter the Poles would surely fall onto their concealed faces. But as those of us who relished such releases as the acclaimed Litourgia (2015) and the just slightly less impacting Hospodi (2019) recognise, these maverick blasphemers have the tunes to match the tablets that they ceremoniously hold aloft during their semi-religious live shows.

Heavenly King/Царю Небесный (Carju Niebieskiej) is Batushkha’s latest release, a six-track 28-minute EP with each piece named Pismo I, Pismo II etc. Having set the dark atmospherics high on the haunting intro they then bare the teeth to reveal the full commandeering black metal aesthetic on the furious “Pismo II” while the strangulated cries of “Pismo III” make it clear that Batushka are not prepared to shed their outer layer of searing savagery.

This new release sees Batushka continue with their archaic Slavonic sermons but on this occasion their overall sound is also given additional impetus by the involvement of some native folk performers. This isn’t to suggest the cuts are any less severe, they’re not. But on the stirring “Pismo IV” for example the inferno flames occasionally part to allow neofolk voices and shimmering grooves to permeate the operatic death party.

An ethereal female solo transforms “Pismo V” into an altogether more sombre and spectral sound, the deeper male choral cuts syncing with the softer tones to provide a beautifully gothic listening experience.

The final Orthodox onslaught “Pismo VI” stirs with menace from the first low swings that strike as though delivered from deep within an inner sanctum. The sharpened riffs soon establish a pattern over which monastic tongues roll forward until things come to almost a stop, just the lightest of touches punctuating the coldness, until the ritualistic dark voices start to rise from the depths once.

Batushka remain an enlightening experience within the cauldron of extreme metal, transcending parameters as they climb above the masses to deliver their irresistible sonic psalms.

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