Release Date: May 10, 2011
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal
Liturgy’s Renihilation sounds like its title. The album overall is a very quick and relentless assault carried out cyclically, “annihilating” over and over and over again till its closure. I listened to this album once a couple years ago and put it down, rather indifferent to its barrage of blast beats and nonsensical vocals. Liturgy meets the requirements of the quintessential black metal band, but there wasn’t much to Renihilation I felt compelled to experience again.
What a marvellous contradiction, this thing we call metal. Is there any genre more closely associated with thuggish brutality, reactionary conservatism, and senseless misanthropy? And yet, where else in popular music is the standard for instrumental acumen so high that you practically need to be a virtuoso in order to be in even a mediocre black metal/death metal/grindcore band? What other subset of rock ’n’ roll has flirted more openly and audaciously with those high-end compositional prostitutes, classical, jazz, and avant-garde? Philosophically, morally, and aesthetically, it is mired in darkness, despair, and evil, and yet no one who’s ever approached a metal show with an open mind and heart can deny the euphoric kick of that bass drum pounding in her gut, the ecstatic (to borrow a word from tonight’s subjects) surge of body against body in the pit. It’s an intensely communal experience for an audience that prides itself on being radically individualistic, an experience that climaxes in a total loss of self, a cessation of identity to noise and throng.
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, the creative force behind the Brooklyn-based black-metal band Liturgy, has gone to extravagant lengths to ensure that the hardcore metal community utterly loathes him. The band performs black-metal festivals in jeans and street clothes, instead of the normal corpse paint, to heckling and jeers. In interviews, he talks about metal's ability to induce "disorientation from ordinary, end-directed existence" like some black-metal David Foster Wallace.
It's very tempting to break down Liturgy's sophomore album Aesthethica into the numerous parts that make it up, or point to the band's obvious influences. While Liturgy has gone to great lengths to insist they are a black metal band, the Brooklyn unit -- vocalist/guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, drummer Greg Fox, bassist Tyler Dusenbury, and guitarist Bernard Gann -- is much more. While it's true that Aesthethica reflects and retains the intensity and single-pointed, focused drive of their debut, Renihilation, their musical development -- as composers and players -- is undeniable.
There’s nothing quite like the furor that happens when metal fans get their collective knickers in a twist over a band that tries to use extreme metal as a starting-off point towards trying to create something new. When it comes to Brooklyn’s Liturgy, however, the complaints from metal’s peanut gallery have been so hostile, it’s bordered on comical. They’ve bastardized black metal, something blasphemous in the eyes of underground scenesters.
Blurring musical boundaries between hardcore, punk and extreme metal, this effort is pretty full-on... While Liturgy’s music is often referred to as black metal, in reality they hardly seem to be the types to break out the corpse paint. In fact this Brooklyn-based four-piece, who’ve played with bands as diverse as The Ex and Oneida, appear intent on blurring the musical boundaries between hardcore, punk and extreme metal, with the tortured screaming of band leader Hunter Hunt-Hendrix combining with Greg Fox’s mountainous blast beats and on-point riffage to create a cavernous sound that’s almost religious in its intensity.
Is no genre safe from the dread hand of the Brooklyn hipster? Black metal – once famous for its homicidal tendencies, but more recently the focus of some wildly experimental and compelling acts – is the sound the New York four-piece Liturgy have adopted as a template for their lofty notions of "transcedentalism" and "ecstatic annihilation" (frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix has even published a book on the subject). But while their second album ticks off plenty of genre tropes – bloodcurdling screamed vocals, kinetic drum blasts, and the kind of left-field musical excursions (such as the shoegaze washes of Tragic Laurel or the madrigal chants of True Will) that are now de rigueur for any reasonably experimental BM band – it is difficult to escape the impression of Liturgy as chin-stroking dilettantes. Entertaining on its own visceral terms, but not wholly convincing.
I remember hearing that rock music was once considered “of the devil”. Elvis Presley was too hot for television in a far different era than what we’re accustomed to now. It makes for a humorous and anachronistic comparison, seeing Presley as a racy performer, only to evolve and watch Marilyn Manson get blamed for school shootings, or personally-championed death metal act Marduk releasing a 1991 demo titled Fuck Me Jesus (the cover art is still on controversial par with Blind Faith’s one and only LP).
Gerald Clayton The pianist Gerald Clayton has been news in jazz circles for a long while now, given the tenderness of his age. (He’ll turn 27 this week.) Growing up in Southern California he took after the Oscar Peterson mold, articulate and assured, justifying his place in top-shelf bands ….