Review by Fernando on July 18, 2019.
By now almost every metalhead into the extreme side of metal is aware of the very public dispute of the Polish black metal band Batushka, the tale of it being that founder and main composer Derph had his band stolen by former singer Bart and now we have two bands calling themselves Batushka and both have released an album, each claiming their album and band to be the real one. But that's the band's drama and right now what matters is how Hospodi, the album by Bart's version of Batushka and released under Metal Blade fares. Right off the bat this album disappoints and befuddles in spectacular fashion.
The first thing anyone already familiar with Batushka will find is how unlike Batushka this album as a whole sounds and not in a good way. One of the reasons why Litourgiya was so lauded and acclaimed was because of its unique blend of sorrowful black metal with Orthodox choirs and its sense of mystery, creating an experience unlike any other black metal band, and all that is completely missing. I can't say if this drastic change of sound and style is an attempt by Bart to distance his version of the band from its original incarnation but the end result here leaves a lot to be desired and at worst, exposes what many people who've been following the Batushka scandal have already said about Bart not being the mastermind behind the original project.
The main and major problem with this entire album is not only how different it is from Litourgiya but also how it fails to be a change of direction. The music here is completely derivative from other mainstream black metal bands, it also takes cues from other genres and the end result is a completely disjointed mess of an album. The music here for a black metal albums is too happy and upbeat, the melodies have an atrocious "rock swagger" and groove that not only doesn't fit with the image this version of the band wants to create but it also stops being black metal altogether, songs like "Dziewiatyj czas" and "Utrenia" have more in common with melodic death metal akin to Amon Amarth or Insomnium than the blatant Emperor and Mgła plagiarism the rest of the songs display. Bart's vocal work is also extremely mediocre, it’s the same old style of shrieking present in literally every other modern black metal band out there and what's worse is how lethargic it comes off, Bart sounds bored and his vocals are one note and repetitive throughout the album, which is surprising for the same man who did the vocals on Litourgiya but then again, Derph in a recent interview said that he had to correct Bart's vocals in post so there you have it. Another excruciating flaw here is the inclusion of church choirs and other sound effects meant to resemble an Orthodox mass which feel forced in, they're added because they have to since this is a Batushka album. It must have church choirs and as such when the choirs open a song or show up in the chorus or bridge of the song it feels awkward and misplaced, which is more evident in lieu of the more "groovy" sound of the album. What's worse however is how the songs are arranged and this is where the album goes from boring to tedious; the pacing of the songs is uneven and sloppy, at one time there's a song on mid-tempo which would later switch to a faster tempo and the transitions are terrible, the feeling is similar to a Spotify playlist on shuffle, songs abruptly end or last longer than they should and at over fifty minutes the album is a chore to sit through, on my first listen I was bored by the sixth track and on my second listen I just wanted the album to end. The second half of the album is a complete drag of filler, which for a band claiming to be Batushka is insulting, not only do they add filler but since all the songs come off as cobbled together the end result is an album with no consistency or cohesion whatsoever, and for what's been marketed as a concept album of "the lithurgy of death" is a complete failure since concept albums have to follow a theme and atmosphere and that is not present here at all.
The final aspect of this album's shortcomings is the production, as I mentioned above, the album barely counts as black metal due to all the botched attempts at having dynamic compositions that cross genres and that's furthered punctuated by its insipid and sterile production, it’s too clean, too polished and it removes all grit and grime that would've made it unique. The best comparison I can make here is that if Litourgiya was meant to evoke the vibes of an Orthodox ceremony this album feels like "Christmas with Batushka", it's saccharine, trite and completely devoid of any real darkness or mystique that would've made it stand out.
Overall this album fails at being a follow up to Litourgiya, it fails at being its own thing, it fails at being a concept album for how inconsistent and lackluster the music and compositions feel and it proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Bart is not and never was responsible for making Batushka what it is beyond handling touring and marketing. It is a boring and derivative album that misses the mark on all its "experimentation" and has no reason to exist. Your money and time will be better spent listening to "Панихида" by Derph if you want a true follow up to "Litourgiya" or listening to said album again over this overwrought piece of commercial crap.
Rating: 2.1 out of 10