Review Summary: Black Metal: Art School Edition
Black metal is not supposed to be taken seriously. At least that's how I've always felt about black metal. When I say that, I usually mean the aesthetic side of the genre; the corpse paint, the armor and gauntlets, the inverted crucifixes with big breasted nude models hanging from them, all of that I've come to almost completely disregard when judging black metal as I've found that it can skew one's opinion on the actual music unfairly, regardless of if the band is using it simply for show or if they genuinely believe that they are "kvlt". However, in the case of Liturgy and their most recent music output Aesthethica
, it is practically impossible to separate the identity the band have created for themselves from the actual music. The overwhelming majority of people discovered Liturgy through their infamous Scion A/V interview near the end of 2011, where frontman and lyrical "wizard" Hunter-Hunt Hendrix (I can just hear WWE's Triple H shuffling the papers for a gimmick infringement suit as I type this) rambled incessantly and practically incoherently about "transcendental black metal" and chaos fluxing and spiritual ecstasy in a manner that only an over-serious Brooklyn hipster could, all while injecting "like" into his sentences every four words and unaware of his bandmates looking throughout the interview as though they wanted to jettison him out a fifth floor window. His "manifesto" on black metal fares worse, bloated with sesquipedalian language and rendering itself completely unreadable within the end of its prologue. This pretentious sense of inflated self-worth spills over into Aesthethica
completely, bloating and dragging the record far beyond the length it needs to be, and annoying the listener with flashes of brilliance squandered within seconds.
Despite what Mr. Hendrix says, Liturgy's music is not necessarily black metal in the true sense of the word. The music found within the 65 minute runtime of Aesthethica
is more of a post-metal/black metal hybrid (post-black metal, if you will), with a healthy amount of noise influence thrown in for good measure. This combination isn't the worst hybrid genre in the world, as bands such as Krallice, Alcest, and Wolves in the Throne Room have shown that these two styles can be mixed together to fascinating results. For Liturgy, however, this is not the case. In the Scion interview, Hendrix speaks many words on Romanticism and how it has influenced him in his own philosophical beliefs. This ideological standpoint is expressed as well through Aesthethica's
music, which is trying to create an atmosphere of "beautiful chaos" through almost exclusively high string tremolo picking played over almost exclusively "burst beats", which is the band's own name for the blast beat so common among all extreme metal. It's like black metal that would be played in an inspirational family movie such as The Odd Life of Timothy Green
, and it honestly kind of works at times.
However, much like how that movie is beneath the surface very cruel and mean-spirited, Liturgy inflate their music far beyond what is either necessary or enjoyable, although the latter is a bit more subjective since the music itself is mostly very generic. In many respects the music here is even worse than just being generic because many times throughout the album the band will create a truly excellent section of music completely evocative of the atmosphere they are trying to create, only to squander it moments later by shifting away to a much lesser segment of the song. Other times they inject, of all things, djent into the mix, such as the absolutely infuriating "Generation", a seven minute Meshuggah worship session that repeats the exact same four notes over and over and over and over and OVER for what feels like an eternity. Most of the other tracks fare no better than this, sounding as though you have had a song on for 10 minutes when it's really only been about 3. This is to say nothing of interlude tracks "Helix Skull" and "Glass Earth" both being completely unnecessary and grating to the ears in a manner rivaling other such sonic unpleasantries as nails on a chalkboard, screaming infants, and Alex Jones talking. Lyrically the record isn't anything too terrible, as the band focuses on "transcendentalism", whatever the hell that means. The sheer lost potential in the music is what kills the record, though. Such a shame, really.
The performances of the instrumentalists are alright but aren't anything special when compared to other, infinitely better bands in the vast library of extreme metal. Hendrix and Bernard Gann handle the guitars just fine, picking away at high speed and with enough precision as to not completely screw up. Bassist Tyler Dusenbury is buried in the mix, so real comments can't be made. Greg Fox's drumming I've read in many reviews praised as being some kind of breakthrough in extreme drumming. New flash: it's not. He's just blasting really fast, and any drummer who spends enough time focusing mainly on that can get it down pat in a matter of weeks. Hendrix's vocals are, as well, nothing special. He takes very much from USBM stalwarts Xasthur and Leviathan in his tortured vocal shrieking. Honestly he'd be a good fit in a depressive black metal band, if only he wasn't "kind of, like, sickened by, like, sort of reveling in, like, negativity." And yes, that's an actual quote from the guy himself, "likes" and all.
Liturgy's 15 minutes of shame ended swiftly when those who had discovered them through their infamous interview listened to Aesthethica
and realized that there was almost nothing musically interesting about the band, be it good or bad. The masses moved on and the band pretty much have faded back into obscurity, save for an appearance on Metallica's first Orion Music + More festival (fitting when you consider that Lulu
was an overlong earache of a record, too). In the end, though, Aesthethica
will exist as an example of what happens when the hipster subculture co-ops a style of music that is completely the opposite of their own system of beliefs and tries to make it their own. The band let their own pretensions get in the way of making memorable or exciting music, leading to a bloated, overly long mess of an album. Had the band shaved 20 minutes or so off Aesthethica
by focusing more on the good elements of their songs and removing non-necessities such as the two interlude tracks and "Generation", this record would be a much more listenable and entertaining record. Sadly, however, this is not the case, as Liturgy let their focus on being "transcendental" co-op their music and make them the laughingstock of the metal world for a while. One can only hope that they learn from their mistakes with their next record, whenever that may be, because if they still exude the same aura of self righteous douchebaggery and don't make their music better, then we may as well have found the new whipping boys of extreme metal as a whole.