CONCERT REVIEW: Batushka – Swallow The Sun – Stormruler Live at the Brooklyn Monarch


Mid-August always carries a wistful air as the summer heat reaches full swing but so does our knowledge of its impermanence. What better way to quell our gloomy pondering than with a black metal show at The Brooklyn Monarch

A fairly recent emergence in the melodic scene, Stormruler opened the night. With speedy southern flair, the St. Louis boys instantly commanded attention with punishing riffs and Emperor-esque shrieks. The triumphant wickedness of their epic song (obviously Dissection fans) blended seamlessly one into the next, with interludes of acoustic guitar and keyboard in the vein of dungeon synth. While other new-wave USBM artists struggle to win the Scandinavia-or-nowhere hearts of black metal fans, the formidable Stormruler carve their name with ease.

If the opening act brought the fire, Swallow the Sun cast an icy, Finnish gloom to extinguish it. It was as if all the heat and energy were sucked out of the room and replaced with sadness as their death/doom set began. The devastating gravity of New Moon lulled the crowd into gentle rocking, while These Woods Breathe Evil and the closing track Swallow were pure, symphonic evil. The guitarist and bassist were very into their parts, aggressively swaggering back and forth, while vocalist Mikko Kotamäki stood somberly still like an elegist. Their funereal brand of doom is exactly what I would expect to come out of Finland (I’m also a huge Ville Valo fan) and so their performance checked all the boxes.


As if whispered in and out with the wind, Swallow the Sun exited and an elaborate setup of altars, candelabra, and religious paraphernalia appeared. The room fogged up with the scent of incense and the low, ominous hum of a foreign language vibrated the walls. The crowd stood for what felt like an eternity as we waited for the “church” of Batushka to start. Finally, the black-veiled  “fathers” took the stage and launched into the liturgy. The baritone vocalist belted out hymns in Church Slavonic, the language of the Eastern Orthodox Church. For the number of wars waged over some kind of god, I’ve always thought religion to be pretty metal.

Although some intellectual-rights drama surrounds the band and mixed feelings exist on that front, their live performance is worth witnessing; it is hard to refute the heavy-handed effort in their stage setup and musical orchestration. Batushka generates an entire atmosphere with their sound: spectral guitar melodies, thunderous drums and bass, venomous vocals, and a haunting cloaked choir. The closest comparable thing on the market right now is Cult of Fire, but they have only graced US soil once in recent memory. All that to say, Batushka (old or new) goes far beyond just music and offers a full sensory experience that is best beheld in person.

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