Batushka, Swallow the Sun, Stormruler @ The Brooklyn Monarch
After centuries of bringing together countless cultures and heritages, New York City has seen just about everything. Yet, even nowadays, there are still occasions where residents of the five boroughs have to ask 'what even was that?' Despite having cast a shadow over North America three times since 2018, New York metalheads found themselves asking this questions once again, albeit with deafening applause and horns held high, as the 2023 North America Black Pilgrimage tour kicked off in Brooklyn.
Headlined by black metal mystics Batushka, the night was a chock full of enchantments from the headliners, as well as lamenting melodies and gnashing black metal from support acts Swallow the Sun and Stormruler respectively. "They could have had this good a show at Irving (Plaza in Manhattan)," remarked one fan, "I am so glad they booked it here so we're all pretty much front row for it!"
Formed in 2019, Stormruler not only endured the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the metal world, but came out on the other side boasting two albums released on Napalm Records, and a tour resume including runs with Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral, and Rotting Christ to name a few.
While being one of the first sets on a Monday night can be quite a challenge, the sons of St. Louis quickly got the crowd pumped. Delivering ice cold black metal in the manner of Immortal and Dissection, songs such as "Reign of the Winged Duke", "Sacred Rites & Black Magick", and "Upon Frozen Shores" are sure to become essential listening as the last rays of summer give way to autumn gold and the first signs of winter frost.
While its neighbors might be famous for their black metal and melodic death metal scene, Finland has yet to deliver unto the world a metal band that was less than incredible. Stepping on stage like mournful ghosts, the somber notes of "Enemy" rang out to remind all of Brooklyn that Swallow the Sun had arrived to continue the legacy of amazing Nordic acts.
Transitioning to "10 Silver Bullets" and "Keep Your Heart Safe from Me", the Finnish doomsters had the crowd caught in a whirlpool of gritty guitars and melancholy vocals.
Having performed at the Brooklyn Monarch in 2021 on their headlining tour, supported by Abigail Williams and Wildrun, long time fans were pleased to hear "These Woods Breathe Evil" for the first time since 2019.
Concluding with "Swallow (Horror Pt. I)" off 2003's The Morning Never Came, the members of Swallow the Sun were more than happy to take a little longer to get their gear off stage so they could take pictures with fans new and old. While their music might be sorrowful, there were smiles all around as many came forward to say "Thank you for coming to play!"
Crossing Eastern Christian symbolism with macabre items such as skulls, Batushka is certainly one of a kind and a shining of example of the aforementioned phrase 'what even was that?' Having referred to themselves as 'Orthodox black metal', theirs is not a concert, but rather, a ritual gathering.
Taking care to light each candle before vocalist Bartłomiej Krysiuk blessed the stage with incense, the set began with the haunting riffs and Gregorian chants of "Yekteniya I: Ochishcheniye" (translation - 'Litany I: Cleaning').
The story of Batushka is as peculiar as the band's music and live show. Formed in 2015, the band emerged from Poland with their incredible debut, Liturgiya. Following a split between Krysiuk and multi-instrumentalist Krzysztof Drabikowski in 2018, there are two incarnations of Batushka currently in existence.
Krysiuk's version has since released several offerings, including 2019's Hospodi. Performing songs such as "Wieczernia", "Powieczerje", and "Plounosznica", fans who missed the band's last visit to Brooklyn in October, 2022, (also at the Monarch) were thrilled to hear these numbers brought to life at last.
Those who have been faithful to the congregation of Batushka since day one were also ecstatic to hear another two songs off Liturgiya. This was especially apparent as the bells rang out, signaling the beginning of fan favorite "Yekteniya III: Premudrost" ('Litany III: Wisdom').
Having kept their lyrics and image open to interpretation, one might wonder if their visit was a blessing or a hex. Light or dark? Whatever the answer might be, all in attendance could certainly agree it was welcomed and very much enjoyed.
Press and photo pass courtesy of Freeman Promotions