Very much a large congregation of the happily dead gathered for a mysterious ritual experience in these dark winter times. Batushka have obviously cast a spell of blackened doom off the strength of their only album so far to attract a sold out venue, never had to queue down the street here before even while the first band has started up.
They had meant to have been here in the autumn but this was belatedly cancelled, the more venturous/lucky of us had seen them at their debut UK appearance at the North of the Wall festival in Glasgow last Easter. Even if I knew it would be pretty much exactly the same, their quality more than merits a return visit.
So the first tongue-twister mouthful of a support are in full flow when we enter. Handily also known as TxRxP, it’s a one man band from Sweden, vocalist with backing electronics. Reasonably atmospheric, mainly droned material with a sluggish industrial beat, and the harsh or deep rasped vocal over the top. It’s pretty stripped down, and I’m reminded a bit of the early days of GGFH, though it doesn’t come close to my worship of them
The Swiss contingent of Schammasch had been raved about by folks who caught them on a previous tour over here, but they were entirely new to me. And all the more pleasurable to be blown away by a great new discovery. Back to a full band set up, I think, among the smoke and red lights, the also initially start with an emphasis on the mood. Drawn out, delicate and quite beautiful pieces, with limited vocals, sometimes as the lead one is providing extra tribal drums, there’s almost a sense of calm but also perfect attention to detail. We are indeed lulled in to be swept away when they shift up the gears to black metal onslaught, but it’s not filthy and raw, rather excellently constructed and clearly delivered intensity. Would gladly see again.
A lengthy change over to set up the pulpit, the icon, light the candles and incense and generally prepare the unholy space for the headliner. I presume the (allegedly, seeing as they keep identities a little close to their en-robed chests) Poles may have some experience of the more traditional orthodox ceremonial rites still celebrated over that end of Europe, they have done an excellent job in combining and corrupting these elements with their anthemic metal.
Often underpinned by battering double bass precision, the mix of black, death, and doom is in just the right doses to keep us transfixed and reverberating enough to fill our hearts with shadowy joy.
The vocals are key though, not just the sonorous lead but the backing 3 piece choir too just make for a huge sound and a fresh appreciation of choral singing when it is done in this dark fashion. There’s the standard ritual theatrics that add to the visual entertainment, interesting and good that these elements can be brought in, not necessarily as a gimmick but as a thought out layer to the experience. Anyway, captivated by the irreligious experience once again. All praise the Father!