Review Summary: 10101: the musical!
Attempting to write on a Liturgy project comes, I’ve now learned, with a great deal of contextual baggage. There is this overwhelming urge - showcased, rather neatly, by literally every Liturgy review on Sput - to wrap the conversation around one of three tangential questions: (a) is HHH’s occasionally dismissive attitude towards the hallmarks of the genre she has built a career out of pretentious and/or annoying and/or silly; (b) is HHH’s philosophical posturing - venn diagrams and flowcharts and manifestos and ugh
- also pretentious and/or annoying and/or silly; and (c) some third thing. If you are aware of Hunt-Hendrix and that which she tends to do, then you no doubt already have an opinion on these three things. That is good. You are sentient. Phew
. I will not, however, burden you with my thoughts on these alphabetised points - clearly enough of us already have. Let us, instead, talk about music (ew).
Firstly: interludes! The parceling out of big-yes-screms with smol-no-screms has, lately, become a dark art in and of itself - another gift bestowed upon us by that
garish pink ode to washing hot yellow balls - and 93696
achieves said apportionment splendidly. The 4-part angel-suite whose titles apparently ground the thesis of this variously numerical album (don’t ask) are, jokes aside, divine
, each piece saucing up the same spindly-melancholic///ornate-biblical motif with variously pretty textures and soothing net results. They're essential pockets of calmness throughout this otherwise cartoonish onslaught (more on that later), providing a saving grace of decorum and whimsy; far from tacky window dressing, these shimmering snippets are unexpected LP keystones.
And what do those instrumental-asides key-stone, I hear the voice inside my head ask the other voices inside my head? Oh boy … so, erm, take Liturgy’s typically grandiose brittle plastic-y black-metal distillation - that
bludgeoned-Disney-princess-sparkles + burstbeat-bollocks + brick-wall-in-a-tin-can + skwarking-down-a-windtunnel-in-a-good-way thing
- and then whack in some symphonic-orchestral theatrics and a church choir on fire and then djent (lol) and more neo-classical-meets-gospel shenanigans and slick-groovy post-metal palpitations and a touch of actual normal fastfastzoomyfast bm and then fuck well I guess that’s 93696
. It’s a Liturgy album, then. It’s also 82-minutes long (eek).
It is more
, though. There’s a cohesion/poise/elegance here, or a confidence, or a meaty, potato-y substance, idk, something(!!!!) that the ungainly genre-splicings of the band’s previous attempts at transcendentalism seem to have lacked (also known as songwriting
). Where those projects were skeletal, 93696
is fleshy. As a result, that which shouldn’t work, works! E.g. see the spoken-word-almost-trap vox that pepper “Haelegan II”, clearly of The Ark Work
heritage, which add an offbeat-cultish vibe to the maximalist bm epicness they sneak between. It makes for a spicy compare-contrast that, in turn, elevates the freight-train-careening-through-the-gates-of-heaven crescendo, the clever tonal amalgamations lending this closing movement the weight and stature and godly fucking regality of an erect cathedral spire (tl;dr it shitting goes
). Equally seamless follow up “Before I Knew The Truth” pulls off a similar trick, grounding the shrill tremolo leads with chonky djent-ish drum kicks, nestled deep in the mix, then working in a cheeky piano melody, which turns into an operatic lullaby, into a glitchy aside, into more things, and more things, and more, and all, coming, together, sublimely
I suspect the same case could be made for just about every track here - see also the thicc
Baroness-ish riffage plonked into the otherwise desolate “Caela”, the angular Frontierer worship that blows the top of off unofficial closer “Antigone II”, and the chameleonic rhythmic undergirdling beneath bassy bulldozer “Ananon” - but for me to elaborate any further would be to deprive you of the wide-eyed childish glee to be gleaned here, if observed dumb and blind and (relatively) expectation-less. The one thing you must do, however, is buy into the silliness. Ridiculousness loves company, and 93969
demands that you embrace the preposterousness of its candy-coated cacophony, forthright, or die. Provided you’re not precious about subtlety, press on(!); 93696
is an absolute joy
to traverse, just so long as you don’t take it as seriously as it seemingly takes itself.
There is, however, a downside. It’s called “Red Crown II”. It is not a very good song. It is also less than 2 minutes long. Moving on.
was produced by Steve hecking
Albini (Big Black, Rapeman, etc.) who is now 60 years old, and who is still very good at his job, and then there are also lots of roman numerals, i.e. references to old songs, more than usual, some more meaningful than others, but which just make the whole thing feel more exciting and interconnected and cool and damn
am i legit becoming an apocalyptic humanist rn help AND THEN fucking GET THIS right SO there’s this palpable sense that all the pieces have finally fallen into place and that the loose disjointed sketches that made up large stretches of Aesthethica
have been refined and hammered soldered stitched willed
together with other strands of the ever growing Lithurgy playbook and now there’s pacing and structure and good-taste it just keeps getting bigger and bolder and better and now im gushing im gushing oh no oh no oh whyyyy…
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so dismissive of essay questions (a) to (c). There is, after all, a damn good reason that they’re such well-trodden topics. The turbulence with which Hunt-Hendrix ricocheted her way into the black metal discourse, and all the irritation that said boinging around induced, is one of the main reasons her project has been so interesting to follow, and why I wanted to write on 93696
in the first place. When it came time to put pen to paper, though, it just seemed too trite and uninteresting of a discussion to fixate on. Liturgy is no longer worth talking about because of the controversy and intrigue surrounding it; it’s worth talking about because it is actually
worth talking about. This is damn good music. Like, legitimately sensational. Some of the best of 2023, actually.