Batushka + Hate + Ghosts of Atlantis + Summoner’s Circle @ The Dome, London, 20 February 2023

Spread the metal:

Batushka + Hate + Ghosts of Atlantis + Summoner’s Circle

The Dome, London

20 February 2023

Photos by Farrah Kathleen

Review by The Flâneur

When I received the confirmation that I’ll be reviewing this gig (last minute on the day), I thought to myself: “Why did I sign up for this?”

It’s not that I have anything against Batushka. Actually, that’s a lie. I think of Batushka as this once mythical entity of great promise which fell to earth and became a noughties internet-style meme: washed out and largely forgotten, mentioned only to remind those of us from before about the ignominy of its hilarity. About the simpler times. Also, the gig’s on a Monday afternoon. Come on! If you set your gig for before it’s fully dark out, then it’s in the afternoon. Yes, I’ll be a hater in this review (and not in the sense of a fan of Hate).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First on the bill were master Knoxvillians Summoner’s Circle. They delivered their barrage of theatrical no-frills straight-man black metal with an enviable gusto – particularly as the public was still gathering up and bleary-eyed.

I really enjoyed Summoner’s Circle – in fact, they were my favourite act that night. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel – and why should they? The wheel works really well for them, barrelling again and again towards crowds above and beyond with the victorious fortitude of their sound.

In the interlude between Ghosts of Atlantis and Hate, I took a break in the smoking area and ended up striking up a chat with Summoner’s Circle’s vocalist Blind and keyboardist Nadir. They seemed quite conscious of a very negative review from their Copenhagen performance earlier in the month. Now, I haven’t read that review, but I disagree. Summoner’s Circle are pretty cool, and nice dudes too.

I ended up talking to a couple of the members of Ghosts of Atlantis in the same break, and they seemed alright. I made the blunder of insulting Essex, which is where they turned out to come from, so apologies for that. Also, apologies for the below.

Ghosts of Atlantis made very little sense to me as a part of the bill. I mean, they clearly have some black metal influences, though indefinably so. I guess I liked the care they had put into coming up with unique stage outfits, but that was about all I liked from them. To me, they sounded metalcore more than anything else, and the prog bits and predominantly clean vocals really threw me off. I’m sure they’re not a bad act at all, just a bad fit for this line-up. Originally, Paradise Flames were supposed to be the second band on the bill, but I’m not sure what happened with that. Thankfully, there came a speedy end to the breakdowns – before I had a breakdown myself.

And then, unexpectedly more breakdowns. Hate is one of those many bands everyone has listened to once, digging their stuff mildly, and then forgetting about them completely. If you asked me what I thought about them prior to this gig, I’d have answered with the standard: “Yeah I haven’t listened to them for ages but the last time I did they seemed pretty good”. After this gig, I sort of still maintain this opinion, but I also plan on never listening to them again.

Why is that? Well, they were pretty good. But they also had more breakdowns than any black metal band should have. Hate were a bloody dynamo from beginning to end, but two breakdown-y bands in a row started making me physically sick. I was honestly contemplating leaving at this point. I did enjoy the atmospheric drum passages but that was it. I’m not sure if it was just me or the sound engineering, but I rather felt like the guitars were a little too absent.

The venue was still half empty and I was resigned that it wouldn’t fill up much more. The crowd was definitely enjoying Hate more than Ghosts of Atlantis, but rather lethargically. Hate were pretty much exactly what one would expect from a band called Hate: too much promise of spectacular delivery and yet underwhelming second rate black metal in reality.

And then it was time for Batushka. I was honestly dreading it. What if I actually enjoyed them?

The beginning was solemn and ritualistic, just as one would expect. Bathed in red light, the members of the band flocked onto the stage in a sort of pentagrammic formation. The front lines of the audience were taking the piss. Now, I was born orthodox (definitely not such anymore) and I love ritual ambient, so I was really digging the intro.

But man, was the rest of it underwhelming. Batushka are two bands. Not in the very literal sense of this statement (of course, they are actually approximately thirty), but in the sense that the visual can be separated from the music, and commented on on its own. The music is dull, over-processed, exhausted, and underwhelming. The visual is a theatrical masterpiece which seemed infinitely more rehearsed and perfected to a tee.

And to that I say: Boo hoo. If your music is great and so are your theatrics I’ll be very impressed. But if it’s just your theatrics – I’d rather go to the theatre. At least then I (likely) wouldn’t be subjected to counterintuitive musical numbers.

At the sound of a Russian chant, I decided it was time for me to leave. Bad choice, comrades. Blind wished me goodnight on the way out. Nice chap.

But, you know what? I still don’t know which Batushka I saw that night – and I don’t care enough to find out.