First Listen: Liturgy, 'Aesthethica'

May 1, 2011

From the band members' coifed looks and heady philosophy to the upright and inverted crosses balancing out Aesthethica's front cover, everything about Liturgy seems intended to provoke a strong reaction. Ever since the 2009 release of the intriguing but ultimately scattershot Renihilation, the Brooklyn "transcendental black metal" band has been the subject of both scorn and praise, the criticism stemming mostly from factors that have nothing to do with music.

Aesthethica, out May 10, is a disorienting yet exhilarating listen through and through. High, treble-y guitar riffs shriek like Mick Barr (less like his work in Krallice, more like his shred compositions in Orthrelm), but where Krallice layers, Liturgy syncopates with intense precision. Perhaps that's what's meant by frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix's "burst beat" concept: a rhythm that accelerates and decelerates throughout each song, setting charges to explode along the way. Take "High Gold." After a minute of little noises, the song evolves into a full-on rhythmic attack, as Hunt-Hendrix almost croons high-pitched screams, but the band lunges back and forth like a violent tide. The burst beat rests on not only drummer Greg Fox, but also the whole of Liturgy.

Any music that smartly pushes black metal forward, outward or sideways is a welcome step. The genre serves as a springboard for Liturgy, but within that sound, the band embeds the hyperactive punk pounce of Lightning Bolt, the meditative yet loud repetition of Glenn Branca and even the lumbering doom of Sleep's Dopesmoker (see the instrumental "Veins of God"). Getting caught up in what's "tr00" — that's Internet-speak for metal that stays true to the original tenets of the genre — isn't the point. This is music that creates a new history.
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