"Batushka are a Polish band whose members have not been disclosed, but they are reputed to be from well-known bands." I made an honest attempt to find out more about these mysterious musicians, but even their Facebook page keeps it to that one-sentence description. Again, when it comes to the more extreme forms of metal, I see value in keeping the details shrouded in shadow. I may not know who these guys are, but they certainly have given me much to delve into with Litourgiya.
Certain elements, particularly the more epic and sorrowful melodies mixed with the deep chanting remind me of certain Death Karma songs as well as work from Animus Mortus . It is these clean vocals that I predict most people will be talking about in reference to the album. It's not that we have not heard this monk-like, old world style of vocals before in everything from Enslaved to more avantgarde groups, but it is rare that they take such a central role. Impressively, they manage to hold their own while playing nicely with the more sparing use of traditional blackened shrieks. When these particularly harsh moments do arise, the result could be compared to Gorgoroth circa Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam.
With all of the interesting dynamics happening between the tremolo-picked guitar melodies and interplay between the grim, extreme vocals and deep chanting, it would be easy to miss one of the underdogs of Litourgiya: the drumming. In my mind, the bulk of the energy and fluidity of this album comes from the kit. There are so many expertly-executed and well placed transitions between the blastbeats, double bass, and more deliberate 4:4 patterns. These are truly the driving force and foundation upon which I'm not sure the other elements could hold so firm without.
Of the 8 tracks here, my personal favorites are "III" and "V," but the level of consitency again causes me to recommend leaning towards listening to this as a full work as opposed to just an amalgam of tracks. It really is a quite lush and beautiful experience. It sounds like a live recording from within a monestary...one that happens to allow heavily distorted guitars, a drum kit, and blasphemous screeching. If you dig your black metal on the melodic, but not overproduced side, you should check out Batushka below.