If you have dreams of upstaging a fast growing phenomenon like Batushka, you’ll need to come up with something good. So probably best to plug your fingers into the nearest demonic power socket, aim yourself roughly in the direction of the stage and grimace your most ugly grimace as you let rip. Or at least that seems to be the strategy coming loud and clear from the stage as I walk into the Dome about halfway through the Noctem set. The sound belting out from the speaker stack is like a warped version of Marduk – sliding riffs and ugly chords coupled with a taste for dark melody. I quietly berate myself yet again for my casual approach to timekeeping on gig nights. Lead singer Beleth towers from the stage spewing forth his vocal assault flanked by long-term guitarist Exo and three relative newcomers who joined the band in 2015. Despite the line-up changes, these guys come across as a tight unit – throwing themselves into the art of captivating the audience with a physically imposing show which amplifies their ferocious sonic assault. In short – a band that only someone who is entirely convinced of what they’re about to deliver would even think about employing in an opening slot.

At the other side of the hall there was another spot of frenetic activity. The bloke manning the Batushka merchandise stand could easily have been mistaken for someone selling tenners for £5 each as he dealt with waves of punters who can’t seem to get enough. As he juggles wads of cash, one of the most impressive varieties of t-shirts I’ve ever seen for a band with just one album, wooden box CDs, band plectrums, LPs, patches, I was left wondering, not for the first time, why more bands don’t put just a little bit more effort into the merchandising because, from the looks of it, this lot could have paid for the entire tour in one night.

Back on stage the Batushka paraphernalia is already beginning to populate the set – candelabras, a skull prominently paced at the front of the stage, the album artwork of the virgin and child (faces rubbed out / obscured) and a pulpit for the lead singer to belt out his incantations. Batushka, if you didn’t already know, go heavy on the Benedictine-style singing, Eastern Orthodox liturgy and the performing of divine rights. But it’s terrifically well balanced and with the doom-laden black metal to the fore – the clean singing providing the icing on the long-desiccated cake. No prizes for guessing that this is not a Christian band, however, even though Batushka translates as ‘father’ – the appropriate address for an Eastern Orthodox priest. What exactly it is they’re up to is still open to question. But the mystique building up around the band is obviously working – as the audience rapidly filling up the Dome behind me testifies. You may want to dismiss them as gimmicky or button pressing. But that would mean you’d have to ignore the quality of the music involved. Which is really what makes this is a band not to miss.

With the appropriate atmosphere descending, the band – all eight of them – begin to file on stage, hooded, masked and anonymous. Perhaps the only surprise is that there isn’t a lot of preamble to the beginning of the set but it’s probably no surprise to learn that the set list is basically the album played live – complete with hand bells and layered monastic singing. But what an album Litourgiya is and the slightly tense excitement building up from the front to the back of the hall suggest that we’re all as one hoping that this is going to work as well as we all hoped and imagined it might. The lead singer begins with some perfunctory gestures, the hand bells ring, and the band plunges in to the first litany – Cleansing. A rousing, heaving black metal track perfectly juxtaposed with the clean vocals of monkish chanting. Each liturgy is played in turn as the hefty baritone (or is it a tenor – it’s difficult to work out exactly which of the four clean vocalist is singing what…) at the centre of the stage performs what I can only assume are unholy rites, as befits a band and a man trying to make an art out of making a point. There are a lot of bands converging on the quasi-religious and occultist theme at the moment – Cult of Fire graced the same stage at Incineration Festival only a week before. But the depth of Batushka sound and the efforts they’ve gone to recreate it in a live setting is jaw dropping and you can’t help wondering how you’ve managed to convince so many obviously classically trained singers to tag along for the weird ride.

Despite the lack of crashing around on stage (I suspect you literally fall over from heat exhaustion in those graven gowns if you did much more than play your part in delivering the music) the result is quite enthralling. Yes, the hand gestures displayed by the Batushka lead man at times seem a bit pointless (ditto Cult of Fire) – although and I wondered if you’d sometimes just be better off doing nothing at all and just letting the sounds and the thick atmosphere do the work itself. But otherwise Batushka’s ceremonial performance is highly entertaining and the perfect accompaniment to the organic black metal sound pulsing forth from the stage. By the time the band arrived at the third litany – Wisdom, the music (and obviously the incense and the holy water) had pretty much washed away any reservations anyone might secretly have harboured that these guys may not be able to pull this off. The track (the third on the album) has a riff that will bury itself into your brain like a living organism and is just what an album thick with ideas and layers of dark rhythm and melody needs to firmly hook you in and set to work. It would have been a disappointment that it was over was the set list not so full of driving riffs that mean the only real come down of the night arrives when Batushka finally file off stage.

The audience thins out, but the merch man is busier than ever – pretty much doing the job of three people as the clamour for stuff continues from the end of the set at around 10:35pm to not far off the 11pm curfew time. Batushka is developing an enigmatic allure and a solid following – and the number of Batushka T-shirts you might see at the next London black metal gig may well testify to that.