Batushka Deliver a Blasphemous Sermon to Sold Out Bar Le Ritz

Batushka (Батюшка) and Hate brought Polish black metal to a sold out Bar Le Ritz on October 19th. The Montreal date was one of the concluding stops on the 24-date North American Pilgrimage tour.

Hate warmed up the stage. Hailing from Warsaw, the group have been releasing underground blackened death metal since 1992. While the band mostly consists of new members, lead singer/guitarist Adam Buszko (stagenamed Adam the First Sinner) has been at the band’s helm since their inception.

The group presented themselves like you’d expect a blackened death metal band from the ‘90s to, each member adorned in leather and their own play on the infamous black metal corpse paint. Their songs were fairly chunky and had quite a bit of substance to them, as the band rifled through tremolo riffs and heavy percussive hits.

The most interesting part of Hate’s set was their “encore.” About 30 minutes after they got on, they thanked the crowd and walked off the stage. However, the house lights stayed dim and the venue played a dissonant ambient track for a few minutes while… everyone kind of stood around in the dark wondering what was going on. After a very weak chant was started by some dude in the front row, Hate retook the stage to an applause. It was the only encore I’ve seen that was created out of confusion. Definitely an interesting tactic.

Headliners Batushka played next. Also Polish but from Bialystok, the group are a newer project that gained a lot of traction back in 2019 because of complicated legal disputes between band members which split the name in two. As a result, there are technically two bands that operate under the Batushka name, but the original group responsible for their much-acclaimed debut doesn’t seem to be that active. Therefore, the Batushka currently on tour are the ones making a name for themselves with new music, while the other Batushka seems to have the rights to the album that made the group famous in the metal scene, but they are not nearly as active.

With all that out of the way, Batushka showed why the venue was sold out that night. Given that they were playing in a small bar, Batushka were about as theatrical as possible, which was by far the highlight of their performance. The band members were adorned in long satin hooded cloaks spotted with custom gold emblems and patterns. These outfits really set the atmosphere for their set, as frontman Bartłomiej Krysiuk stood ominously in front of the microphone stand, delivering ominous chants to the audience. In front of him was an altar that held a sea of lit candles and a prayer book, flanked by metal podiums topped with skulls. The band’s music also set the scene, as the band progressed through grand black metal tracks which were often bookended by more melodic sections, which offered a good sonic balance.

The best part about Batushka’s performance was their emphasis on mixing the musical aspect of their set and occult theatrics. Attending the show felt like attending some sort of strange blasphemous yet communal ceremony. This atmosphere was created not only by the aforementioned stage props, but through how the band frequently focused on the non-musical aspects of their set. During some songs, cloaked members would slowly light various candles on-stage, as spooky black metal rifled through the audience. Other members would collect skulls placed around the stage and lift them towards the ceiling as some form of occult prayer. It was these moments that really got to the core of what’s special about Batushka.

While Batushka’s North American pilgrimage has come to a close, make sure to catch the band live if you dare.