As civilisation continues to eat itself, heavy music’s dark spiritual quest has never seemed more vital. Emerging from the shadows of eastern Poland back in 2015, Batushka have already established themselves as one of the modern era’s most powerful and evocative bands. Harnessing the fire and fury of arcane black metal and channelling it through the reverberant grandeur of ancient rituals of worship, the band’s debut album Litourgiya stood apart from the extreme metal hordes: a monument to originality, depth and dark mysticism that swiftly cast its spell over the metal underground and beyond.
As Batushka took their music to the people, its power seemed to multiply tenfold, forging a profound connection with an increasingly rabid international fan base. As a result, the band’s imminent return in 2019, with their second and most devastating ritual to date, is set to be an event of undeniable significance.
“The last few years were a very intense and busy period for us,” the band’s nameless spokesperson states. “We’ve played a lot of shows around the world. We received a huge amount of support from the audience in return. And I guess we, as a band, have also matured. It was a great time to gain experience and to gather some of the inspirations that shaped us and who we are today.”
More than four years on from Litourgiya’s extraordinary opening statement, the second Batushka album is destined to be 2019’s most transformative metal release. Named after an Old Church Slavonic word for God, Hospodi enhances all the unique qualities that made the band such an instant phenomenon, while offering an entirely distinct and fresh sensory experience, replete with the most ferocious and bewitching songs the Poles have penned to date and a newfound sense of rock swagger.
“We didn’t want to copy the first record nor its sound. Litourgiya was unique and we decided to leave it that way. As for our sophomore release, we decided to record it the old-fashioned way, with analogue and ‘live’ sound, without any digital interferences or boosters. I would say that the new album has a more rock vibe than the first one. It has melodies, of course, but it’s also a furious black metal record. We were inspired by the Orthodox music, the so called ‘white singing’ and also some old Byzantine sounds that are really present on this record. As far as guitars go, there are a lot of classic rock influences and some early 90’s metal in there, too.”
Fiercely conceived and audaciously executed, Hospodi takes the epoch-shattering essence of Batushka’s debut to a new level of idiosyncratic intensity. From the mesmerising chants of the opening Wozglas to the blazing bombast of Dziewiatyj Czas and the pulsing, dark rock melodrama of Wieczernia, this is an album full of wildly dynamic, divergent moments, wherein the band’s otherworodly, inspirational fervour meets the whip-crack precision of 21st century brutality. Perhaps most importantly, Batushka’s deft conjuring of religion’s synaptic shock ‘n’ awe looms large over every scything riff and bellicose scream. By the time fans reach the overpowering climax of the closing Liturgiya, a true Damascene conversion is practically guaranteed.
“The whole album is a concept based on the Liturgy of Death, the prayers for the dead, and Orthodox funeral rites and dirges. It’s all about a ritual that involves the dead and the mourners. We also used a lot of old folk songs and elegies from our homeland. These are sung during the wake, around the casket, in the deceased person’s home. Nowadays only few older people know them and still sing them accordingly in our region. We decided to cherish that tradition and I’m glad that with our album these songs and rites will survive.”
Poised to deliver their second monumental liturgy to the unknowable and unseen, Batushka are the perfect antidote to modern music’s vapid superficiality. As Hospodi exerts its enigmatic allure, the only sane response is to surrender and succumb. Let the ritual begin!
“Our new live shows will be based on the concept of the new album,” the band conclude. “You will experience the Liturgy of Death, a funeral rite, crude, sad and bitter! Beyond that, our great hope is to do what we love doing and to continue to share this with the people we can rely on.”
Hate has consistently been one of the top billed bands stemming from the powerful Polish Extreme Metal movement. But Hate’s story from their very early days has never been a simple one. From the early days of Daemon Qui Fecit Terram and Lord Is Avenger, the journey has been to digest the world around and attempt to break bread with a reality wherein there are no restrictions. Where there is no ground to keep you grounded and no church to keep you unthinking and busy. The first two albums, joined by the third, Cain’s Way, carried the band through the 90’s, wherein they made a name for themselves both in the national underground and abroad.
Releasing their fourth record, Awakening The Liar, in league with the fabled French record label, Listenable Records, was an important milestone in more ways than one. It showed Hate’s character as a band in the sense that it was a very different affair from all three records that came before it. Cleaner perhaps, but also sharper, more dexterous, the band adapted over time to their own developing sensibilities and marked a clean-cut distinction. Hate wasn’t, isn’t, and won’t be, a band afraid to take their sound to a new place. To explore new ideas.
This notion was further cemented with the release of Anaclasis: A Haunting Gospel of Malice and Hatred. A powerful testament to a different period in the band’s journey, this 13 years old record is still held by many as one of the classics of the second era of Hate. This era was marked with versatility and a rise in prominence that has not halted to this day. It was here that the band began to reap the fruits of their international popularity. Hate was now unleashed upon the pond of the world. Their 6th and 7th releases, Morphosis and Erebos respectively, saw them touring the USA with such giants as Sepultura and Mayhem, as well as touring Europe and South America with Rotting Christ, Vader, Hypocrisy and many others.
These happenings soon culminated with Hate’s signing to the Austrian label and Metal powerhouse, Napalm Records. Soon thereafter, Hate released their first opus in this new environment in the form of Solarflesh: A Gospel of Radiant Divinity. Solarflesh was everything a fan of the band could have wanted and more. The record showed not only aggressive and abrasive music, but music that managed to fully engulf the ideas behind the songs. The silent choking of hopelessness, the majesty of death and catharsis combined into an understanding of the void.
But tragedy struck the band seemingly out of nowhere, and this ascension was brought into a very painful halt. The band’s bassist of five years, Sławomir “Mortifer” Archangielskij, passed away in his sleep on April 6th 2013, only four days before what would have been his 28th birthday. The band was distraught, not only have they lost an important component, but also a great friend who’s shadow and spirit still lives on in the band to this very day. A few months later, joined by current drummer, Paweł “Pavulon” Jaroszewicz (Vader, Decapitated, Antigama, guest work in Lamb of God, among many others), Hate released their grief into music, and spawned the album Crusade: Zero. The album offered an interesting, at times beautiful, at times saddening, view into the madness which is dealing with the death of a young, close friend. And out of death, came life, and with the leaving of Konrad “Destroyer” Ramotowski (guitars), the second era of Hate was sealed, but the third has come to be.
Tremendum was released on the 5th of May, 2017, and it was, again, a game changer. The album saw ATF Sinner (vocals, guitars) utilise the dark aspects of the mystic and arcane Slavonic folklore to explore themes both personal and impersonal. It is an album that is relatable at first listen, but that is hard to fully know. Reviewers and fans alike praised Tremendum for not only demonstrating that Hate know exactly how to create lacerating and dark music, but that the album does justice to topics and themes not normally drawn upon in the realm of Death Metal.
With Tremendum, ATF Sinner looked both inwards and outwards to create a piece that not only resonated with his own background, but that sought to further unearth what lies in the pages of Slavonic Pagan lore. He drew upon the works of such scholars as Czesław Białczynski, among others, to try and piece together a coherent understanding rather than a coherent narrative. Less so about who did what and why, but more about how to see and process through pagan eyes. How to interpret the world around him, essence and stone, through the eyes of an ancient culture that laid the foundation to so much of the Eastern European character. If one were to lift the veil of Christianity, Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodoxy.
In 2018, we find Hate as ever, advancing. In preparation for what might be their most fruitful endeavour so far, Hate has chosen to collaborate with the home of American Metal, Metal Blade Records. Toe to toe with such legendary acts as Behemoth, Mercyful Fate, and Amon Amarth, Hate is seeking to cement itself in the stomping grounds of giants. Having released snippets of what’s to come with the “Path to Arkhen” demo-track and a preview of “In The Shrine Of Veles,” it can be said with some certainty that Hate isn’t a household name just in Poland, but an important part of the framework of global Extreme Metal. Work on the upcoming album – slated for a 2019 release – is well underway, with more details coming soon.