Popularity within black metal is an intriguing thing. The genre’s lifeblood is built of defiance and resilience to trends and norms found within contemporary styles of music yet, just like any movement and collective, popularity exists and bands can experience surges in recognition. BATUSHKA are one such band to experience this. 2015’s Litourgiya stamped their name onto the scene and since that debut, the mysterious collective have become one of the most talked-about names in modern black metal. Three years have passed since that first album and BATUSHKA are bringing their sermons to cities across mainland Europe and the UK. We were part of their congregation in Manchester to witness their live ritual.
As a result of arriving late to the evening’s venue and missing opening act TREPANERINGSRITUALEN main support SCHAMMASCH were the first band on offer here and the Swiss quintet delivered a harrowing and exhilarating performance. Creating a hauntingly intoxicating atmosphere through striking visuals in their on-stage apparel and an arsenal of hammering riffs and a chilling vocal display from C. S. R. His range on offer here was simply outstanding as he effortlessly flowed from operatic chants to gut-punching growls that screamed influence from the likes of BEHEMOTH. Whilst the vocals soared the core of their sound was even more impressive. Bombastic and colossal drumming from TERRA‘s L.B gelled together with the triple-pronged assault from the guitars of C.S.R, M.A and J.B which resulted in a vicious and adrenaline-pumping rhythm. 2016’s ambitious triple album Triangle showcased a band who are not afraid to push their soundscape to the absolute limit and in the live environment, SCHAMMASCH effortlessly translated their expansive sound to the stage. It was a performance of sheer class and demonstrated the utter talent at the disposal of one of extreme metal’s shining stars.
Having a lot of hype behind you can be both a blessing and a curse. Deliver the goods and you can enjoy a fruitful career but fail and you’ll be just considered just another flash in the pan. In BATUSHKA‘s case, the hype machine is certainly in full gear as Rebellion was absolutely swelling in sold-out attendance and, thankfully, the band certainly delivered. As aroma from the incense and candles swirled in the air the band created a moving and captivating atmosphere that held the audience’s attention throughout. Maintaining this atmosphere through a Gregorian choir added splashes of melody through orchestral chanting and soft percussion instruments supporting their chaotic riffing, BATUSHKA‘s ritualistic performance was mesmerising to say the least. And when they upped the ante, the sheer intensity here was emphatic. Blistering drumming and cascading rhythms from the eight-string guitars on Yekteniya I whipped up a storm and the visceral opening shriek on Yekteniya III was utterly gargantuan in power. Whilst some may deem their Orthodox apparel as a gimmick, the technicality and skill from the band operating as a unit on stage helped create a truly striking image, one which certainly leaves a lasting impression. It was a thoroughly enjoyable performance to witness, one which clearly supports the sheer excitement behind one of the hottest bands in black metal today.
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s ritual from Sabrina Ramdoyal Photography here: