For all its nihilistic, regressive tendencies, black metal also has a tendency to throw out some real oddball records. Litourgiya by Poland’s Batushka can be considered one such album, not because of the way the band draw inspiration from, and subvert, orthodox Russian Christianity – as impressive as their live show is, it’s keeping within the blasphemous traditions of black metal. What makes the band’s music so notable, though, is that for all its religious overtones and tremolo-picked leads, there are moments within Litourgiya that border upon the joyful, embracing the euphoria of death to sterling results.
Admittedly, it’s taken me a bit of time to fully appreciate the album. Between its original release in December 2015 and seeing the band live last May, it was an album I’d listen to regularly, appreciating it but not quite getting all the hype. Having come back to it after not listening to it for about a year though, I can understand why so many think so highly of this record. Moving between religiously charged sections and moments of melodically infused catharsis that strike a similar mood to, say, Cult of Fire, Litourgiya is an album that embraces black metal traditionalism whilst also moving beyond it, creating a unique sound and feel. If the band can keep the standards this high on future albums, they’re sure to be regarded as one of the greats of our time.