Returner

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Few bands have elicited as much vitriol from fans as Liturgy and frontman and creator, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. From the now infamous transcendental black metal interview to black metal manifestos, the guy has been ripped to shred on internet message boards as well as memed to death. And that’s before the guy’s music is even in the picture. 2009’s Renihilation and 2011’s Aesthetica angered black metal pundits as they arguably shaped the current trend of so-called ‘hipster black metal’ that has swatted the hornet’s nest of black metal.

Personally though, I found Aesthetica to be a very good album that was more hated because of things HHH said, rather than for the music on the actual album. Sure, the same crowd that loathes Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room are content to deride any black metal that wasn’t spewed from the vilest depths of Norway’s asshole, clad in corpse paint and spikes, butt truth be told, HHH is into something quite special. And with new album The Ark Work, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix will more than likely further feed the trolls. Clean chants, rap prose, programming and even more transcendental black metal in its most hipster of forms make for an album that will make the internet fume. But as you will see in my upcoming full review, there is a deliberate creativity genre shattering and genius at work here that many will simply overlook. So, is HHH a musical prodigy taking black metal to places its never been or is he self absorbed hipster trying to appear smarter than everyone else in the room. Read on to find out…

So let’s get the transcendental elephant out of the room. In your now infamous Scion interview, where you talked about black metal manifestos and spiritual ecstasy, garnered you a lot of negative feedback and hate on the internet and in the metal community. Any regrets about that interview at all?

My feelings about negative feedback are always ambivalent.  On the one hand, I expect criticism, because I am deliberately aiming to make music and art that is original — and original art makes people uncomfortable, which leads to negative feedback.  There’s some kind of cosmic logic at work there, and I’m willing to play by those rules.  On the other hand, it was painful to experience that, obviously — and at times I have wondered whether I made some kind of mistake without realizing it.  I can see both perspectives — but either way, it’s been an experience of passing through the fire — humiliating, humbling, and ultimately strengthening.  So that’s a plus.  The other positive is that it is an interesting social experiment.  I made a limited edition zine out of the first few hundred comments and circulated it within my group of friends.  I consider any feedback that haters generate on the internet to be part of the overall work of art that is Liturgy or The Ark Work.

Do you think that the interview sort of detracted from the album Aesthetica where people/critics/ media etc were more focused on the things you said rather than the music on the album?

Maybe — but I am not so interested in having an ordinary rock band and releasing albums without a larger context.

For what it’s worth, I loved Aesthetica. Returner and Tragic Laurel are amazing songs. What did you take away from the experience of writing, recording and then releasing an album that was so divisive among fans and critics alike?

It was very intense.   It felt to me like a really important task or something like that, like I had a divine mandate to see it through.  Lots of pain went into making the record, and releasing it also caused me a lot of pain, but that’s ok.

So, now here we are four years later. We’ll talk about how the sound of HHH and Liturgy has obviously changed, but how have you changed over the last four years as a person and as a musician?

I’ve changed quite a bit as a person.  I wasn’t able to handle all the attention Liturgy was getting between 2009 and 2012.   Even the positive attention was difficult to bear — I’m pretty shy and sensitive, didn’t know what to do with it.   It was great to be a little more patient with composing and releasing this new record, not having so much urgency.  As a musician I’ve gotten better at using a computer to produce music, and a little more willingness to reference my influences directly.

I’ve heard the new album, and can you talk a little bit about the first song that was released, “Questzalcoatl”? You went with one of the album’s least ‘metal’ or guitar based songs right away, (“maybe “Follow” or “Father Verizen”?), to gently break fans in,  knowing that the rest of the album was more guitar and riff based. Was the purpose to immediately let listener know that Liturgy has shifted and morphed and put the new direction out there right away? You know fans would assume the whole album was like this and not care that there is in fact riffs and guitars on the rest of the album?

We actually let the label decide which song to release first.  I think they thought it was the catchiest.  There wasn’t much more thought involved than that.

Let’s talk about the decision to go with the clean, chanted vocals for this stage of Liturgy. I know you’ve talked a little about deconstructing black metal and even rap (“Vitriol” as an example of some rap sort of energy in the album) as a element of black metal. Is this part of that process?

Yeah a big theme for this record is approaching the relationship between rap and metal in a new way, different from what we conceive of as “rap metal”.  I wanted to play on the resonance between liturgical chanting and the kind of monotone triplet flow you find in Bone Thugs-n-Harmony or Three 6 Mafia.  When those groups rap it always sounds to me like an incantation, like casting a spell — using words to create the same hypnotic effect that I’m trying to create with the music.

Are you trying to distance yourself and Liturgy from black metal or transform it to something altogether ground breaking?

I think of it as digging deeper into what Transcendental Black Metal can be.  This album is closer to the way the music has always sounded in my head than previous albums – I conceive of it as being a vast, shimmering orgy of different tones etc

There is a lot of Tibetan/Himalayan sounding instrumentation along with the almost monkish chants; lots of bells and horns and strings… is there something philosophical/conceptual about the release in its entirety that melds with this Eastern aura?

Interesting question.  I don’t know.  I don’t think about it in terms of Eastern aura, really.  To me it is more about bringing together lots of different elements that are unlikely candidates for synthesis and finding a way to alchemically mix them together to forge something new.  Philosophically it’s about being on the cusp of shame or nonsense – about just barely making sense, just barely holding together, almost unraveling into some kind of hideous bad taste, but getting it to work.

The song ‘Vitriol” seems pointed at critics and fans. Is it?

You mean are the lyrics addressing critical reception of the band?  No, actually, though I could see how it might seem that way.

You seem to be the obvious mouth piece and controlling force of the band. What role do the other players have in the creative process for this album, especially knowing it would be so different? Or are they simply playing what you write?

Basically the rest of the band plays what I write on Liturgy records.  Usually things change a bit as we rehearse the songs, but I always start out with fully formed compositions.  In the case of drums, the parts I write are kind of abstract and Greg makes decisions about how to execute what I’m wanting for him.

Is this shift from Aesthetica to Ark Work  Liturgy’s new sound or is it ever changing process? Will future albums be the same of are you always looking to morph and transcend what Liturgy will be musically? Is there a point when Liturgy will simply not be recognized as metal at some point?

In some ways I see this as a big shift away from Liturgy’s earlier sound, but in other ways I see it as simply a continuation , an addition, a fuller expression.  It depends on your perspective.  The horizon I’m pushing towards is really opera or some kind of narrative, and in the next year I’m planning on devoting some time to writing drama in the same way that in the past few years I learned to use a computer to arrange music.  I don’t know if that will be Liturgy or not.  But I’m always open revisiting earlier sounds and forms too.

What do you think fans and the medias response will be to The Ark Work? do you care? Will the masses immediately hone in on the likes of “Vitriol” or “Questzalcoatl” and ignore songs like “Reign Array”, which is just a phenomenal song.

I bet it will get a mixed response — people will think there are parts that are totally brilliant but that it is also deeply flawed in certain ways.  I kind of have a feeling that the metal community will be actually more accepting of this record than the previous ones, because it is far enough away from metal that it can be respected for what it is rather than criticized for what it isn’t.  I really have no idea though – I hope it finds its audience.

Have you ever gotten any feedback from other veteran black metal luminaries about what you are doing with black metal or Liturgy? For example what do you think Abbath of Immortal would think about Liturgy?

I don’t remember ever having had a conversation with a black metal luminary.  Well actually I had a short conversation with Fenriz was, but never introduced myself as a member of Liturgy.  I know most of those guys don’t care about black metal anymore.

What do you want the legacy of Liturgy and HHH to be when its all said and done?

If it were up to me people would think of it as a ground breaking album.  The process of composing it felt herculean, like some kind of cosmic task.  I see it in terms that are actually larger than that — as music that could have the power to heal, to redeem.  My experience of making this music is very intense and cosmic, but I try to have a sense of humor about it to.  I am personally very happy with it, and I know at least some people out there will really connect with it too.

Thanks for your time. any parting words for the readers?

Thank you.

Comments

  1. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    The answer is glaringly obvious: He’s a self absorbed hipster.

    Fuck this guy, he should be beaten with hammers and left bleeding in the moonlight. With any luck he’ll “transcend” right into the afterlife before the spring thaw.


  2. Commented by: jerry

    He’s an idiot, but no more so than most other black metal musicians who spout elitist bullshit all day as if their extremely niche musical output has some Wyld Stallyns effect on aligning the planets. That being said, Liturgy has great songs which are far more creative and memorable than whatever black and white cover art sporting interchangeable true black metal that gets jizzed on critically throughout the last several years. “True Will” in particular is a masterpiece of a song. I’m looking forward to the new album. And Solefald was rapping in a black metal context on Neonism like a billion years ago, so whatever.


  3. Commented by: Paul

    He’s just young and has a very self-involved view of the world. He’s a talented guy though, hopefully he will mature a bit. I have my doubts though, some people never do.


  4. Commented by: noah

    this album is gonna be amazing


  5. Commented by: Randy

    His music is exploring new aspects of metal and other genres that few others have really touched on. Is it really so offensive to people to hear new things that they aren’t already familiar with?


  6. Commented by: jerry

    I just listened to The Ark Work. It’s incredible.


  7. Commented by: Daniël

    I hope the crowd will mature rather than HHH. Any form of attack should be pointed at the music. It is important to let others be, for it is up to them to arrange their lives. No more ad hominem arguments, but rather constructive criticism which could help both Liturgy and the listeners to get to a higher platform. One must understand that what HHH does with Liturgy is completely up to him. Nowhere does he in his music attack others – and in the same way, no-one should attack him for doing what he likes.


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