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Features Rank and File

Rank and File: All of the Fucking Batushkas

Just to get y’all up to speed on the butteriest drama in recent metal history – in late 2015, the mysterious Polish black metal band, Batushka, took the metal world by storm with their debut album, Litourgiya. It was blistering and aggressive, but also very atmospheric and evocative, rife with orthodox chanting and a general aptitude for excellent hooks. The band’s aesthetic of total anonymity really helped fuel interest because everybody wanted to know who was behind this excellent new group, with rumors swirling that it included members from bands as disparate Mgla and Vader. After a period of silence, there was an announcement in late December 2018 that blew the mystery apart. It came out that the main instrumentalist and sole songwriter was Krzysztof Drabikowski, a mostly unknown guy whose only real claim to fame was playing for a few years in Hermh under the name “Derph”, and he had kicked out the man he hired to do vocals, Bartłomiej Krysiuk (who was the guy behind Hermh and owner of Witching Hour Productions and generally known to be a huge dickhead) after he had attempted to copyright the band name behind Krzsyztof’s back. Well, after some period of uncertainty, it became clear that Bart was successful in his usurpation of Batushka, at least in the legal sense, and had since signed the band to Metal Blade. Both men refused to rescind their claim to the band name, and both released albums this year under the Batushka name. The fact that Krzsyztof’s version is not only the “original” but also seen as clearly superior led to a ton of schadenfreude across the metal scene at Bart’s expense. As of this writing, the legal fight is ongoing, and both iterations of the band are attempting to cement themselves as the “real” Batushka by booking live shows and one-upping each other.

This drama itself is incredibly juicy, but what has made it my favorite thing ever is the fact that, especially these last few weeks, the metal scene as a whole has taken to parodying the whole situation by forming loads of new Batushkas and rushing releases out the door as both an attempt to capitalize on the lunacy and (probably) an attempt to further obfuscate who the real Batushka is in order to strike back against Bart’s theft, because metalloids care about thieves and scammers more than literally anything else in the world.

And because I’m drunk at 10:00 AM on a weekday, I listened to every single Batushka I could find. So you don’t have to. And now I’m going to rank them. You’re welcome.

15. Babushka – Jevanđelje po Vučiću

Babushka is easily, by a long shot, without a doubt in my mind, the absolute worst one of the bunch.  This particular iteration claims to be based out of the Vatican, but it’s clearly just some dude in his bedroom with his one guitar recording directly into his laptop’s sound card.  I know that’s what he’s doing because I’ve done it before.  It’s just this weak ass low-distortion crap slapped together in an afternoon with some random mumbling on the top.  If you’re gonna take this opportunity to shitpost, at least be funny about it.  This one is just sad.  He didn’t even bother with a drum machine, because trying is dumb apparently.  The riffs aren’t even good on accident.

GRADE: F-

14. Bacuska – Psalami Sproćudemonske Obmane

This is another low-effort one that doesn’t even count as a joke as far as I’m concerned.  It’s two tracks of massively distorted (mostly because it’s too loud, not for any aesthetic reason) chanting with occasional 20 second bursts of practice-amp guitars and a shittier-than-usual drum machine.  It’s just painful to listen to and doesn’t work as the joke it’s clearly intended to be.  The only worthwhile moment is the random glitchy sci-fi noises that appear for a bit near the end of the first track.

GRADE: F-

13. Bathowka – Eco-Friendly Orthodox Black Metal 

This is the first one with anything resembling actual black metal on it, but of course, the one with Trump and Greta hastily photoshopped onto the cover is going to be among the shittiest.  I mean, who is really surprised by that?  Have you heard shitty NSBM before?  That’s all this one is.  Lazy shit recording of lazy shit riffs, and that’s all there is to it.  I get that most of these are going to be jokes, but at least some of them had the common courtesy to be funny.

GRADE: F-

12. Papushka – Barka (Барка)

A few of these go with the joke that, instead of the blasphemous perversion of religion that the original band thrives on, they are actually Christian.  Or at least religious in some way?  I don’t know religion; I’m a dumbass heathen who didn’t even step inside a church when I got married.  I think this is Catholic specifically since it parodies Pope John Paul II, but I have no idea.  Is there a difference between Christianity and Catholicism?  I think Ireland had some sort of beef about it a few decades ago.  I’m four Jack and Cokes deep.  If nothing else, this one is at least kinda funny because it sounds so happy.  I think this is a real hymn, but I have no idea.  It’s the same track three times, one of which is pretty traditional church music with a distorted guitar, the other is the same track but with black metal tremolo and blast beats, and the third is instrumental.  At least the black metal remix is kind of funny in how absurd it is to hear it after the first track.

GRADE: F+

11. Babushka-6 – The Batushka Song

This is just one single 14-minute long track that goes nowhere.  It sounds like an actual attempt was made to create some music, but it’s really slow and dull, and I hate listening to it.  It’s only above Papushka because it sounds like these two dudes kind of know what they’re doing, and the artwork is funny.

GRADE: F+

10: Bartushka – Hospodi

HA!  This is the one that started it all.  This here is Bart’s version of Batushka, the pretender to the throne that he tried to usurp. The fact that it’s so low isn’t out of spite; it’s just really that bad. It’s almost remarkable how fucking boring this is.  Every track feels like an intro track, and even the few kinda decent songs take seemingly ten years to get to the fuckin’ point.  It utterly blows me away that Bart thought this was so good that it was worth torpedoing his already spotty reputation just to score the quick buck of underground hype.  It’s a poor facsimile of Litourgiya.  It has the proper focus on atmosphere and the abundance of orthodox chants, but it falls completely flat because the songwriting is so meandering and weak.  On the one hand, it’s pathetic that only five of these jokes are worse than this, but on the other hand, it’s pretty telling how shit those five jokes are if they couldn’t even clear this incredibly low bar.

GRADE: D

9. Babuszka – Babuszka 1

This one almost completely disregards the joke of actually trying to sound like Batushka because this is straight-up drone.  I don’t claim to be well versed in the genre, but I like Sunn O))) well enough when they’re at their best.  This is nowhere near that level.  I do give it some credit for the low end being so full and thick that the fuzz manages to carry some serious weight, and the tribal drums are a nice touch.  At least it feels like it progresses naturally and goes somewhere, which puts it slightly above Hospodi.  Also, the claim that the band consists of literally four black metal loving babushkas is the logical endgame that I hoped this fad would reach.

GRADE: D

8. Suka-Blyatushka – Piruha (Пируха)

I wanted to make this the #1 simply because the name made me laugh the hardest.  Five Jack and Cokes. I’m power-houring this terrible idea.  From this point on, they all at least feel like genuine attempts to create music instead of lazily cashing in on a cheap joke, and despite the name, Suka-Blyatushka feels genuine.  Granted, there’s an inherent jokiness in ambient choirs broken up with loud industrial banging somewhere between Fear Factory and Genghis Tron with the occasional obnoxiously loud sample of angry Russian screaming, but it’s fun, and I got a kick out of it.  There are only four singles right now with a full length “on the way” but I’m not delaying this while I wait for it to drop because I need to capitalize on this bullshit too.

GRADE: D+

7. Vladyka – Vethij Zavet (Ветхий Завет)

This is probably the least obvious parody, but it’s an obvious parallel to the drama nonetheless.  Vladyka is basically just average chunky black metal with prominent choirs, which could you also say about the original Batushka if you were the type who didn’t enjoy good music.  It stays low-to-mid paced and doesn’t throw any great riffs at you, but it’s a decent although forgettable, Batushka clone.

GRADE: C-

6. Batouska – Spiritual Rebel Propaganda

Look, I’m a leftist in some form, it’s not a secret.  I bleed black and red.  But if there’s one thing about leftist metal nowadays that bugs me, it’s that nobody is fucking angry.  Everything is always presented with this overwhelming coat of liberal smugness and condescension instead of actual vitriol.  Yeah, I know fascists are fucking stupid and deserve to be mocked, but you’re essentially just patting yourself on the back by calling them idiots and moving on with your day as if your superiority is self-evident.  I mean… it is, but you can do better.  We need more Assucks and Napalm Deaths in the world, not hokey shit like Neckbeard Deathcamp.  And so while Batouska is proudly anti-fascist and espouses all of the same values I do, they do it with that NBDC style of arrogance that I could never get behind.  So basically, this is just regular (decent) meloblack with funny song titles, and that’s all there is to say.  I say all of this with the caveat that “Wanking with a Thesaurus in a Bardo Methodology Interview Doesn’t Conceal Your Fascist Bullshit” is a phenomenal song title.

GRADE: C

5. Batyushka – Apostol (Апостол)

I’m surprised at how much I like this one.  The gimmick is that the dude (or dudes) are playing as actual Orthodox priests out of Russia who want to reclaim the name from the Devil.  Unlike Papushka, up there, this one doesn’t come across as a joke.  This is impressive considering there have already been six god damned albums released under this name.  There has obviously been a lot of effort put into this instrumental take on Batushka’s signature sound, which is astounding considering the prolific release schedule.  The only possible explanation is that Senmuth is behind it.  I only listened to one of these albums (the “true” debut, as he/they say) because I only have so much time and so much whiskey.

GRADE: B

4. Bashutpska – Ecce Homo 

This unironically fucking rules.  I think I’ve heard this band is Mexican, but either way, this is just ultra primitive Latin American black/thrash in the vein of Sarcofago.  Yeah, the vocals are produced horribly, and there are painful volume spikes all over the place because this is super raw and obviously recorded extremely quickly, but man, I’d jam this even if it wasn’t part of the Batushka drama.  This is actually loaded with excellent riffs.  With proper mastering, I’d score this even higher, even though the unabashed slapdash primitivism is absolutely part of the charm.  Also, the first track is called “Ten minutes of bells ripped straight from YouTube,” and it’s exactly what it says on the tin.  And that’s fuckin’ hilarious.

GRADE: B+

3. VVATUSHKA – Demo 2019

This is simultaneously the worst and the hands-down fucking funniest entry in this series.  There is no pretense here; this is 100% a joke taken to its most absurd extreme.  There is no real musical value, but I will listen to this every single day until I die, which will probably be soon at the rate; this is draining my life force through laughter.  This demo is just one dude, single-tracked, a capella making Beavis-style guitar noises, and occasionally clapping to simulate a drumbeat.  My entire soul left my body around the 1:26 mark of the first track when he stops for a full beat of silence before yelling *DWINK* to simulate a pinch harmonic.  There are moments where he stops to breathe, and when he comes back, he “riffs” a little faster for a second to catch up with the imaginary beat.  The “drum fills” are just him rolling his tongue.  This is comedy gold, and if you don’t love it, then you are officially off my Christmas Card Mailing List.

GRADE: S++++

2. Derphtushka – Panihida (Панихида)

Now this is what we’ve all been waiting for.  After including Hospodi, you could probably guess that the real thing was going to be in here as well.  Panihida is the true follow-up to that wonderful little underdog that took the underground by storm four years ago.  This is every bit as haunting and evocative as Litourgiya, with all of the glorious perversion and blasphemy that helped it stand out as something more special than “just” another melodic black metal release.  The chants, the riffs, the punishing drums, it’s all here.  Krzysztof proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the true master of Batushka.  This feature has mostly been a shitpost, but the real genius does deserve credit at the end of the day for spawning this glorious farce.

GRADE: A

1. Batushka –  Litourgiya

Obviously, this had to win, right?  I mean, nothing was going to top the original.  Litourgiya was a standout of the decade and deserves to be highlighted as the spark that allowed this entire circus fire to happen.  People smarter than I have told me that this isn’t particularly unique, that other bands did it first.  Frankly, I don’t care.  This was my first exposure to black metal with so much melody and so much ecclesiastic fervor that I couldn’t help but be taken to another world when I first heard it.  Maybe it’s a cheap noob opinion, but Litourgiya is an undisputed future classic in my eyes, and I hope anybody who listens to it for the first time today can see why it affected me so much.

Thank you for joining me on this stupid journey.  I’m sure four more parodies have come out since I started typing, but this is what you’re getting for today.  Special thanks go to Jack Daniels, Krzysztof’s name being so hard to spell that I had to look it up every single time I typed it, and my piss poor internet that made this take several hours longer than necessary to complete.  All results were reached via the scientific method and were peer-reviewed by lucid dreams.

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3 comments

Hunter Forsberg October 18, 2019 at 8:41 pm

Suka-Blyatushka has just released their debut album if you’re interested. 🙂

Reply
Angelo Sasso October 19, 2019 at 3:00 am

Lol of fucking course they did. Maybe I’ll continually update this as more come out but I don’t think I hate myself enough.

Reply
Hunter Forsberg October 21, 2019 at 8:04 pm

If you’re willing to do so, I’d say go for it.
Be aware, though, of how many there are NOW.
LMAO.

Reply

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