Batushka vs. Batushka: An Idiot’s Blind Taste Test
I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Batushka. If I heard Litourgiya, the breakout record from these Polish black metal dudes, I genuinely don’t remember it. No offense intended if it’s your most favoritest record ever, at the time I was probably too busy obsessing over some slam band from Arizona to pay close enough attention to it.
I’m aware there is some kind of ongoing drama over ownership of the band name that has caused Batushka to mitosis into two separate acts, both known as Batushka. That is probably very frustrating for Batushka fans! Fortunately, I am not one. I am an idiot who has yet to sample the wares from either of the two current Batushka camps. That all changes now. Today I will listen to both Batushkas and let you, the much more informed reader, know which one is good.
First up, we have this version of Batushka. Which one is it? I don’t know and I don’t care! Hospodi, out July 12th on Metal Blade, has only one track up for streaming. And you know what? I like it! “Polunosznica” opens with the sounds of some drunken Pollacks poorly harmonizing together in their garage. It sounds terrible but it’s kinda charming. From there, there’s a sudden transition to a chime-y guitar intro before the distortion oozes in and you’ve got yourself a pretty tasty little instrumental interplay. If you can sit still through the uninspired blastbeat section, you’re treated to triumphant refrain and outro. None of this sounds considerably better than most of the above-average Bandcamp black metal bands that email me every week but I listened through several times and enjoyed myself each time.
Next up we’ve got… another dang Batushka?! Released earlier this week, Панихида is a full album with each track helpfully titled Песнь or “Song” 1, 2, 3, and onwards. You know how numbers work. Upon first blush, the production value on Панихида feels much higher than the relatively DIY sound of Hospodi. Whether that is a good thing or not is between your ears and god. There is no question, however, that the vocals on Панихида are objectively better than what you’ll hear with Hospodi. From a deep, ethereal drone to impressively layered harmonies, the vocals are the star of the show with this record. But aside from some blackened nü metal guitar antics on Песнь 6, there’s not a whole lot of memorable riffage on Панихида. Listening to this record gives me the same feeling of listening to a Behemoth album. It’s well-constructed, sure, but I don’t feel any particular emotions about this, positive or negative. Perhaps I’m not fully attuned to the Russian Orthodox church. Perhaps I have cotton balls stuffed into my ears. Perhaps I am a philistine. Let me know which is the case in the comments below.
I understand that there’s bad blood between the warring bands. Lawyers and labels are currently fighting to declare each The One True Batushka. Without knowing any of the details, I humbly suggest that both bands change their name to L.A. Guns.