BATUSHKA w/ WORMWOOD, KORGONTHURUS – Kåren, Turku, 03.06.2017 (English)

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The black metal event, Turku Saatanalle V (Turku for Satan V), got its fair share of misfortune in February, when the venue, Gong, prohibited Naer Mataron and Sielunvihollinen from performing in the event, citing the bands’ alleged far-right connections. As if this wasn’t enough, the headliner, Batushka, as well as domestic Korgonthurus, had to cancel their appearances because of the bands’ members’ sudden illnesses. Fortunately, replacements were found swiftly and the event went through successfully, but a lot of people were bummed out by Batushka’s cancellation, including me – I was coming to Turku solely because of Batushka, but ended up selling my ticket.

The organizer, Metallihelvetti, had agreed with Batushka to hold a replacement show in Finland as soon as the band’s schedule allowed it, and soon after Turku Saatanalle V, the date was set on June 3rd in Turku’s Kåren. Korgonthurus was announced as a support band, with Sweden’s up-and-coming Wormwood to complete the line-up. The second time’s the charm, so we headed out on the Turku freeway on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t been to Kåren before; acting as Åbo Akademi’s fraternity house, the venue probably wasn’t the most typical place to hold a black metal show, but then again, Tavastia, for example, doesn’t have artwork on the walls spanning from floor to ceiling.

 

As I arrived, there already was a queue spanning over 20 meters outside, but the ticket checkers were able to get the attendants in the doors quickly. Inside, the curtain-clad stage was lit with red light and Korgonthurus’ roll-ups were already in place. There didn’t seem to be a lot of people present just yet, but I had heard that over 200 tickets had been sold in advance. Korgonthurus started off at 21:30 and fired away for 30 minutes with their snarky and cold black metal. The first thing that struck me was the vocalist, Corvus, traditionally dressed in corpse paint and long-nailed bracelets; his high screeching voice is easily top-of-the-line in Finnish black metal. The rest of the band was also on point, though their performance was somewhat static, but you usually won’t see actual partying on stage during a black metal show anyway. I was almost bummed out about not being too familiar with Korgonthurus’ material outside their latest album, last year’s Vuohen siunaus, as I would’ve loved to listen to their set, also containing older songs, for longer. This is how black metal should be done – no unnecessary complexity, but aggressive yet still melodic ass-whooping. The sound was clear and the echo caused by the stone walls didn’t disrupt the show. In addition, the light tech got the best out of the pretty basic setup the stage had. A strong start – go check out these guys at Nummirock!

 

Up second was Wormwood. The Stockholm-based band, formed in 2014, released their debut album, Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth, in March, and this was the first time that they performed in Finland. The set was kicked off with “The Universe is Dying” and the band got hold of the situation pretty quickly – I don’t know how many people were familiar with their stuff beforehand, but after a slightly sluggish start, the audience participated surprisingly wholeheartedly. The good vibe was present on stage as well – Nine, the vocalist, was an energetic performer that couldn’t stay still even for a moment, and the rest of the band seemed to enjoy their warm welcome.

Musically, Wormwood operates somewhere in between more traditional black metal and acts like Thyrfing, also including more folky vibes – you should definitely check out their album in case the more melodic side of black metal is your thing. When it came to the sound, the situation got better as the show went on; the first song lost a bit of its effect on the overall mushy sound. In the chorus of “Oceans”, the backing track was incredibly loud for some reason, burying the whole band, but this didn’t seem to affect the audience. Compared to the two other bands, Wormwood was stylistically pretty different, but that’s exactly the reason why their show worked as a nice interlude before Batushka. Intensity-wise, Korgonthurus pulled off a better show, so switching places with Wormwood would’ve definitely worked as well, but the guys seemed to hurry back to Helsinki after their show, so I understand the scheduling choice.

 

Next up: Batushka! The band is actually a year younger than Wormwood, but their 2015 debut, Litourgiya, instantly elevated them to the frontline of the black metal scene, and since then they’ve been busy touring. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend last year’s Steelfest to see their show, but now the opportunity finally presented itself. Kåren’s curtains were pulled aside at 23:30, revealing a nicely decorated stage with incense holders, a Litourgiya icon, a human skull on a pedestal, and so on. The band’s roadies came out to light the incense, taking their time doing so. Finally, the eight-piece Batushka, dressed in black silk robes and face-covering scarfs, climbed on stage and began their show with a short intro passage. Afterwards the vocalist announced ”литоургиа!”, and off we went.

Absolutely all aspects of the show were on point. The whole Litourgiya album was played from start to finish without any disrupting speeches. Halfway through, before the fifth part, the band played a short interlude passage. The players, identities unknown, are all seasoned Polish metal musicians, which clearly showed in their performance. As a fun detail, the guitarist used an 8-string – you don’t usually even see 7-stringers in black metal. The vocalist was complemented by three backing singers. That’s about all that one can say to describe the show to someone who wasn’t there, as Batushka took the audience someplace very different, and the atmosphere that the band conveyed is impossible to put into words. An amazing show – I hope that you are at least sorry for not attending!

 

As a whole, the evening was excellent. Kåren worked nicely as a concert venue, even though my local friend was concerned about the bad echoing beforehand. In the end, almost 300 tickets were sold, and people were swarming all over the merchandise table already before Korgonthurus had started. I wonder how many people had kept their Turku Saatanalle V ticket, as a 5€ cashback was given at the door to compensate for Batushka’s cancelled show. A big thank you to Metallihelvetti for everything, and see you next time!

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