BATUSHKA – Eastern Orthodox black metal invades the Rockies

Spread the metal:

BATUSHKA

with

SAR ISATUM

FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR

The Oriental Theater – Denver, CO
August 19th, 2018

Words and pictures by Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus

 

I’m not sure what the hell to make of Poland’s BATUSHKA (translation: “Father”) – they’re a straight-up black metal band, but combined with the oddest of imagery…Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Their songs are designed to act as a mass of sorts, with lyrics taken directly from a Church language called Slavonic. Rough translations read like Gregorian Chant, with various things about Mary, Joseph, and so on – except they’re shrieked by a hooded, robed “priest” to the backing of buzzsaw guitars and blastbeats. BATUSHKA is rumored to hail from Poland, and is possibly composed of several well-known Polish metal musicians. Since all eight of their members appear as faceless, anonymous, indistinguishable “priests”, it is impossible to tell.

 

FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR

   

Denver locals FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR kicked things off. This Nordic-influenced prog-black metal quartet had some really interesting, thoughtful music that I am interested in listening to on my own, but unfortunately their stage show was a bit sleepy. Perk up a bit boys!

 

SAR ISATUM

 

Another Denver local group, SAR ISATUM is a straight-up black metal band that goes for being as KVLT as inhumanly possible. All the mandatory spikes, corpsepaint, and executioner hoods were present and accounted for.

   

Plenty of menacing glowering was to be had as well, thanks to brand-new frontman Aeshman, who did an admirable job of making everybody in the front as uncomfortable as possible with his ghastly glares.

 

BATUSHKA

BATUSHKA’s opening sequence might be one of the most entrancing I’ve seen by a metal band. With burning censers of incense, moody chanting by deep male voices, and unholy amounts of fog, I felt like I was part of a twisted mass. The stage is covered in Eastern Orthodox iconography, candles, bells, and crosses. Unlike what one might expect at a black metal show, none of the images appeared perverted or Satanic in any way – they are presented exactly as one might expect to see them in a Polish church.

   

Unsurprisingly, there is considerable controversy around this band – they’ve been banned from performing in Russia due to bitter opposition from the Russian Orthodox church, who claims that BATUSHKA is subversive.

So far, BATUSHKA has only released a single album, “LITOURGIYA.” Being thus limited, they played the entire thing, top to bottom. As part of their personas, they didn’t really interact much with the audience – they have no faces to read. Nor do they move around very much, leaving the focus on the gesticulations of the “frontman”, who appears to do all of the black metal vocals. A three-man choir of priests provided deep chanting throughout.

      
Muted stage presence aside, BATUSHKA knows how to put on one hell of a show. With spectacularly moody, creepy lighting, voluminous quantities of fog, and incredible musicianship, there’s a lot to like here. The ritualistic aspect of the show reminded me a lot of Norway’s MAYHEM.

 

BATUSHKA also commanded a rapt audience, who seemed to know their songs quite well.

 

Overall, this is NOT a show to miss. If BATUSHKA is coming to your town, you’d be a damn fool not to attend.

 

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