Dark Angels

Liturgy / Aesthethica (Thrill Jockey)

Okay, you’ve all heard about black metal, so you know that when we call Liturgy a black metal band we gotta think sixsixsix times about our accuracy on that, because all those true BM aficionados might get offended and burn down our church! Seems that the experimental-leaning Liturgy is messing with the metal “form” too much for our hairy purist brethren, and anyway, ain’t they just a bunch of Brooklyn college kid poseurs? Nah, they’re not. Though as slab-thick-riffalicious and blast-beat bombastic as the gnarliest and gruesomest of black metal beasts, from the git-go Liturgy wanted to take you higher, to do something…different. And different is what they are. Transcendental, too.

Comprising Hunter Hunt-Hendrix on lead screech and guitar, Bernard Gann on second guitar, human octopus Greg Fox on AK40 drums and Tyler Dusenbury on bass, Liturgy make a new kind of music that may or may not qualify as black metal, though the band themselves apparently they could really give a flying fork.

“As far as the ‘black metal’ label goes,” says Dusenbury, “the question of authenticity in certain realms is important, but it’s more important for things like visual art and ethnography. When it comes to music, it’s just fluid –– like clusterfucks. Genre is irrelevant.”

You can blame the black metal label on Hunt-Hendrix, ‘cause it was all his idea, originally, he thought it might as well be niche-marketed that way, if only to get the music heard at all.

“When Hunter first started the band to make the first album, Renihilation,” says Dusenbury, “we had just gotten together two months before, and when we went into the studio, we sort of whipped out all the songs he had written, just banged ‘em out over a few days. So we didn’t really have time to think about what we were doing.”

A ferociously feral speed-thrash grand grindcore guignol nicely lacking lyrical references to the horns of the goat or the bony finger of doom, Renihilation was close enough to true black metal to earn the grudging respect of a handful of BM traditionalists and approx. three metric tons of rock critics more excited about the band’s casual disregard for the de rigeur sonic clichés of the “genre.”

“Black metal is the kind of music that people identify very heavily with in a lifestyle way,” says drummer Fox. “People are defined by the fact that they like black metal, they live for it, and sometimes their reactions to us are kind of violent. It’s the kind of stuff I remember some jocks saying in high school.”

For the band’s new Aesthethica, Hunt-Hendrix came to the table with material going even further in dissonant directions, hardcore at core, yet heavier in the theoretical sense, a fearsomely assaultive yet cathartic brand of rhythmic trance music whose direction/aesthetic takes its formal cues from the new-music likes of Steve Reich, Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham and the almighty Lightning Bolt. Drawing further inspiration from a wide array of non-rock sources including the 11th-century chants of Perotin, the writing of William Blake, the music of Scriabin and the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Liturgy takes metal music into ecstatic realms with the use of repetitive riffs and lines pummeled and flayed, densely interwoven and moiré-patterned unto infinity; meanwhile, Hunt-Hendrix is screaming, he’s groaning, he’s glossolating like he’s suffered for his art and now it’s our turn.

The catharsis of Liturgy is the kind that comes from having endured prolonged intervals of extreme discomfort. You get a similar entrancing experience from Moroccan gnawa music or your old free-jazz-type things such as Ornette Coleman’s Primetime band, where there’re at least two possible levels of interpretation: inspect the music up close like you would a Persian rug, or view it as some particularly intense wallpaper from a little farther away. It puts you in a different place –– somewhere above the music itself. There’s a kaleidoscopic mental and arguably spiritual effect to the band’s precisely detailed aural assault, a very methodical madness to this sound that might as well be called black metal yet is really no less than the most modern and relevant of all electric chamber musics.