Tonight promised to be pulverising, battering and downright brutal as 3 colossal forces were meeting within the cramped confines of the Academy. The pre gig information did however raise some questions, if there are three bands on the bill, why aren’t doors open before 19.30? Why, if the first band were on stage only five minutes after doors opened, why didn’t they open the doors sooner? Why the headliners have the same set length as the main support, and only 10 minutes longer than the opening band ?, and perhaps the biggest conundrum of all was how the hell are Batushka going to fit all their gear, along with the whole band, onto the small and compact stage.

As I walked into the room, the stage was adorned with side backdrops denoting the logo of opening band, the Danish death metal juggernaut, Konkhra. In existence since 1990, they have honed their brand of crushing and detonating death metal into a perfectly oiled machine. Anders Lundemark commanded the sparse crowd throughout and soon had the assembled eating out of his hand, obeying every command with grace and appreciation in equal measures. Konkhra had been awarded an impressive 45 minutes for the opening slot, and Lundemark et al took every advantage to squeeze in as much action and deliverance into the set as possible, finishing to an impressive cheer and applauds from the now swollen crowd. It later transpired that a couple of their fans had travelled all the way from Malaysia just to catch these titans. Impressive or what !!!

Next up was the absolute death metal legends Malevolent Creation, and how these have bypassed my radar on the live scene up to present is beyond me. Their name alone on the bill had sparked my interest when they had been announced and I was eager to be able to tick these off my ‘metal bucket’ list. As they strode out onto the stage and launched into the set, it was colossal from the start, Phil Fasciana and Lee Wollenschlaeger injected the six strings into the mix with ease. The fretwork was intricate delicate yet constructing a monumental carcass on which the heart and soul hung off. The bass lines generated by Gibbs seemed to provoke the crowd into a rabid swirling mess on the floor, and Parmer on the drums seemed to create a mesmerising enchantment which became a metronome on which the crowd’s heads banged to in complete unison.  The set was punctuated with classics sitting alongside newer outings as if they have been siblings for a life time. ‘Mandatory Butchery’ was particularly brutal as was ‘Multiple Stab Wounds’ and ‘The Will To Kill’.  The 55 minute set was over way too soon and the crowd were left audibly wanting more.

As the stage was filled with ornamental prayer objects and elaborate golden smoking stands, the whole stage starts to resemble a decorative church altar, even complete with a ‘coffin’ draped in a shroud. The incense then started to fill the room and the lights darkened before bells could be heard clanging as they were carried to the stage by the robed faceless figures of Batushka. The candles over the stage were then lit and the band launched into a tsunami of vicious and venomous black metal. The vocals were spat out with precision and tyranny. The band stood motionless, bolted to their spot, letting the music generate the movement on the floor in front of them. Their brand of black metal was raw and aggressive, delivered with power and riotous violence. The crowd went absolutely crazy from the start, showing the appreciation at every available opportunity. It was hard to tell if the band was showing any emotion under the gowns, hoods and masks, but surely the energy coming from the crowd must have generated some satisfaction in at least one of the bare footed souls on stage.

Simply put, tonight had been an accomplishment from start to finish. Well worthy of venturing out in the Mancunian cold and frosty evening

(Review and Photos Phil Pountney)