Liturgy - _The Ark Work_
(Thrill Jockey, 2015)
by: Dan Lake (7 out of 10)
When Liturgy released their first album, _Renihilation_, in 2009, the band slapped themselves with the tag "transcendental black metal", as if second-plus wave black metal wasn't already meant to transcend the mundane automaton shuffling of our self-assured and self-destructive modern society. The sound was decidedly non-Satanic, not crying out to the great cold abyss, but there were enormous blast beats and tremolo guitars and harsh vocals, so I guess we had to call it something. Of course, by the time album #2, _Aesthethica_, hit shelves in 2011, frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix had unleashed his famed manifesto and black metal fans everywhere lashed back like he was George Lucas passing Jar-Jar Binks off as a Jedi.

Fact: Liturgy apply traditionally metal elements (distorted guitars, frenetic percussion, etc.) to their music. Fact: Liturgy's music is not strictly metal. While it does delve into occultish pictography and esoteric philosophy, this is not the one-baphomet-fits-all, blood-and-hate approach that metal aficionados have accepted as comfortable. On _The Ark Work_, Liturgy have taken their style to a new place that largely ignores their metal affinities.

_The Ark Work_ opens with a set of interconnected tracks that rely heavily on horns and chimes and studio-edited tone stutters, which at first feel like the synthetic cheese that so often smothers symphonic metal. Eventually, you hear those elements pervading the entire album, and at that point you have a choice to buy into Hunt-Hendrix's 2015 vision or shrug it off as not your bag. _The Ark Work_ will not ingratiate itself quickly to any audience with preset expectations, but it is an eccentric album that invites the curiosity of open-minded listeners and rewards careful attention.

Liturgy offered "Quetzalcoatl" as a pre-release video, which makes perfect sense -- the song stands out with its immediacy and percussive drive, and if you haven't seen the video then you've missed one of the most exciting audio-visual marriages in the past few years. "Haelegen" gives itself over entirely to an introspective organ thick with vibrato, while "Reign Array" follows with more characteristic chimey drum-and-guitar barrage that eventually pairs oddly well with bagpipes. One of _The Ark Work_'s more off-putting ingredients is Hunt-Hendrix's tuneless whine, which seems intended to thread the music with a monotone core but mostly just highlights the vocalist's keyless tenor and puts an unnecessary drag on the music. "Vitriol" relies almost entirely on a vocal performance, both succeeding and collapsing on the strengths and faults of Hunt-Hendrix's vocal choices.

Electro-grinders The Locust called one of their early releases _Follow the Flock, Step in Shit_. Liturgy will always be the black mutant sheep-crustacean hybrid in any flock, and their peculiar trajectory will make it hard for them to find a dedicated audience. That said, they won't be stepping in anyone's shit, either, and surely that deserves admiration.

Contact: http://thrilljockey.com/

(article published 1/8/2015)


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