Review: Batushka – Hospodi

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Y’all ready for some juicy metal drama? Well too god damn bad, because I don’t care.

I’m not here to talk about any of the controversy surrounding the Batushka split; everyone else has already done it to death, and if you care about it at all, you’ve already got an unwavering stance on that. Rather than continuing to reduce that dead horse to chum, I’m strictly going to be examining the music. You know, the thing that bands make. Regardless of who ripped off who, what’s ultimately important here is whether or not Hospodi is a good album, one that works either as a successor to Litourgiya or as a black metal album in general.

In order to really understand the former point, you should have at least cursory knowledge of what Batushka was originally all about. Litourgiya was a melodic, atmospheric black metal album that utilized Gregorian chanting and elements of orthodox Christian hymns. Gimmicky as it sounds, it worked quite well; it was a dark and somber album even in its most intense moments, and it musically captured exactly the image they were trying to project. I encourage you to give it a listen, as there’s little else like it. To use Joe’s words, it’s one of my most favoritest black metal records ever.

When approached solely as a black metal album independent of any prior associations, Hospodi is fairly solid, if not necessarily exceptional. There are moments of triumphant riffing linked together by long atmospheric passages. A couple nastier riffs pop up along the way- “Utrenia” has the best of these- but it’s largely focused on melody and atmosphere. The vocals are far enough back in the mix to make it sound appropriately imposing without drowning them in reverb, and the airy lead tone complements the crunchier rhythm pretty well. Its flow is somewhat monotonous, rarely shaking up tempo or song structure, but that’s par for the course with atmospheric black metal albums.

As a follow-up to Litourgiya… well, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure, but it certainly doesn’t accomplish what its predecessor did. This is still melodic black metal, sure, but all that atmosphere they build is ultimately just kind of aimless. The chanted vocals still sound fine, but they don’t do more than offer a different flavor from the typical screams. The riffs and melodies are painfully basic, and the rich sonic texture afforded by the seven-string guitars’ baritone on the previous album is completely absent. To the band’s credit, the last three songs do feel distinctly more “Batushka” than the rest of the album, but they’re also slower and duller than the rest of the lot. The elements are all there, but they’re just superficial trappings to bland music.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if all you’re looking for is some atmo-black stuff to throw on in the background, you could do worse. However, if you’re like me and actually have standards for the music you listen to are a black metal hipster looking for the next Litourgiya, this isn’t it. But you probably already knew that, and you probably already knew about the other, better album from Not Batushka. But this isn’t about that record; this is about Hospodi, which has utterly failed to impress me and earned itself an apathetic

2 out of 5 Toilets ov Hell

Hospodi is out now via Metal Blade Records.

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