First time around I didn't hear anything special in this record but given a prod in the side I decided to give it another try and after a couple of spins the magic became obvious. "Litourgiya" is the debut release of Polish Black Metal band Batushka, meaning "father" to a priest. They remain shrouded in mystery, choosing to not reveal their identities. Supposedly their a collective of eight musicians from other established bands and when playing live they take on a similar look to Ghost, cloaked in dark and mystic robes full of demonic symbols and signs. I can't help but feel its not just their image that's taken a big dose of inspiration from Ghost, the music too has thought and craft about it, the focus on clean apostolic vocals giving it a similar spirit of biblical damnation.
Aesthetically its not much of a stretch from traditional Black Metal. Its noisy, overwhelming but not low in fidelity. The guitars have a gorgeous tone range fit for shrill tremolo shredding and weighty down tuned low notes sounding almost Djent but without the technique. Around them a clunky bass strums away, its low end blending into the guitars and its high texture waddling its way into the creaks of space between other instruments. The drums batter wildly with timely blasts, a warm rounded snare, softened pedals and muted cymbals come together loosely with a rawness that musters up enough chemistry for an engrossing wall of unrelenting candlelight darkness.
Batushka distinguish themselves with an orthodox theme lining the songs with Gregorian chants, the pummeling, crushing music sets the tone of fearful Christian mysticism. One can envision clergy working over sacred scriptures locked within catacombs and church cellars. The shrill screams and throaty shouts aren't as prominent, taking a backseat to deep, bellowing ritualistic chants that don't set the tone alone. The accompanying music has a lot of mood and tempo shifts, most of the songs slow down the pace for temperate melodies before erupting with gleaming uproars of energy. The chants and "clean" vocals are quiet in the mix and occasionally slip deep into the background, just harmonizing with the guitars inconspicuously.
As an album it plays as a whole, the songs are rather similar to one another and tend to variate on the same ideas in different ways. There are moments of both ambience and intensity that come in many shades of dogmatic darkness and once you've caught the essence of the theme its effortless to enjoy. The sound and character is nailed but it isn't very expansive, so the stage is set for the band to do interesting things with their craft in the future. A very solid release worthy of listening to any Black Metal fan with a taste for twist on traditionalism.
Favorite Track: Yekteniya 2, Yekteniya 8