Live : Batushka + Schammasch + Trepaneringsritualen @ Rebellion, Manchester on January 13th

I don't know anything about Death or Black Metal and I have never pretended to. The heaviest gig I have attended might possibly be Opeth, on their "Ghost of Perdition" UK tour, 10 years ago. But I guess in these kind of pentagram circles, they could be considered pop.

I arrived in good time only to realise that the gig was sold out and the venue packed, we had to queue for a good 15 minutes. I had no idea who the opening acts were and neither did the staff, or maybe didn't dare to spell or pronounce their names.

As I entered the venue, Trepaneringsritualen was already in a trance. The big swedish fellow is covered in blood, delivering incantations over programmed loops. Straight away, it sure gives you shivers down the spine, it is so gloomy and dark, it reminded me of soundtracks from movies I was not allowed to watch as a kid. So much distortion on his vocals made me think of Lemmy with a seriously bad cold. It is gripping, disturbing and fascinating, all at once. It amazes me that someone can get up in the morning to create this music and not be slightly disturbed (maybe he is).

The Swiss avant-garde black metal band Schammasch (name taken from Šamaš, the Mesopotamian God of Justice) were next. The start was rather slow, it might have been the "Prologue" and "The Wighty Burden of an Eternal Secret" from their last album "The Maldoror Chants : Hermaphrodite". The set does pick up in pace with the traditional black metal drumming and I find myself quite enjoying them. From a photographer point of view, i became very quickly frustrated as the stage was constantly flooded with smoke and red lights. It was a bit of a shame as their lead singer's face was painted black and he wore unusual attire.

As 100 candles are set alight, and suddenly the whole place stinks of incense, one can only assume, the headliners are about to appear. Batushka, pronounced "Batjushka", the band's Cyrillic name Батюшка means "father" and is used to address an Eastern Orthodox priest. Despite their themes and imagery, they are not a Christian band. The identities of the members are unknown as all of them perform masked and in gowns (even the drummer), but they are involved with other bands. Their live line-up contains 8 members, although it is difficult to count them as they keep moving and all look identical.

Батюшка lead singer backed by none other than 3 ghouls, alternates the black metal shrieks with liturgical chants in Church Slavonic – the language used in the Orthodox Church in such places as Poland, Russia, and Ukraine, as well as nations in the Balkan Peninsula. The cover of their new album "Litourgiya" is on display as if it is to be revered like the Bible.

This gig was for me a real eye opener and Батюшка a pleasant introduction to the often misjudged music genre of Black Metal.

Click on pictures for galleries.

Click on video to check out a Batushka live performance and see what the fuss is all about.