Sound Advice: Liturgy

Wednesday (July 15) • Woodward Theater

Jul 8, 2015 at 8:58 am

Salvador Dali once mused,

“There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.” 

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, vocalist, guitarist and lunatic genius at the helm of Liturgy, can certainly relate to that razor-thin distinction. After establishing a brutal and effective baseline for his Black Metal explorations on the largely solo 2008 EP, Immortal Life, and then with his expanded lineup (guitarist Bernard Gann, bassist Tyler Dusenbury, drummer Greg Fox) on the subsequent full-lengths, 2009’s Renihilation and 2011’s Aesthethica, Hunt-Hendrix declared his intention to move further away from the genre’s familiar gear-grinding elements. 

The Brooklyn, N.Y. native, perhaps somewhat inexplicably dismayed at the overwhelmingly positive response to Aesthethica (Pitchfork and Spin both cited it among the year’s 50 best albums), toured the album in a guitar-duo format with Gann and then spent the next two years planning the next Liturgy album, once again, on his own. Dusenbury and Fox ultimately rejoined Gann and Hunt-Hendrix in the studio in 2014 to record The Ark Work, one of the most controversial and polarizing albums of this or any year. In the critical debate over The Ark Work, the great hue and cry from media and fans alike has been that the album does not exhibit the characteristics of Black Metal. Given Hunt-Hendrix’s stated goal to distance Liturgy from the genre, an appropriate response to the preceding criticism would have to be, “No shit, Sherlock.” 

Exploding well beyond the parameters of Black Metal, The Ark Work shows Hunt-Hendrix and his band of not-so-merry men in a wildly experimental mood, blending hard Electronic beats with exorcism Hip Hop, instrumentation that includes glockenspiel, bells, synthesizers, strings, bagpipes and horns, and a vocal style that approximates Philip Glass in an electric straightjacket. 

When considering The Ark Work, forget genre tags and pedestrian expectations; Liturgy has created one of the most harrowing, challenging, difficult and oddly satisfying sonic sculptures in recent musical memory.