I have a vague recollection of enjoying the shoe-gaze influenced black metal debut, Renihilation, of this New York act,  but I have to admit that after it was reviewed by my TOTD-colleague Jordan Itkowitz, I sort of forgot about about it. It simply melded into the many of so called hipster black metal releases that have come out since then.

So when the follow up, Aesthethica showed up in my mailbox with its stark, minimalist cover and on the decidedly un-metal Thrill Jockey Records no less, I braced for either a commercial, experimental or pretentious hipster black metal train wreck. Even more so, after reading this PR blurb at the label’s website: “Highly technical musicianship, poetico-mystical gesturing, and a minimal directness; all singular elements, whose interactions and reactions are contained in and bursting from a black metal framework. Revelatory contrasts presented in an intensely physical performance whose energy is palpable and whose abatement is as illuminating as its arrival“. And I though some of my reviews were facetious. But what I got was in fact an often mind blowing black metal record that contained some truly jaw dropping moments.

On a very base level, as Jordan Itkowitz succinctly put, Liturgy can be compared to Ulver‘s Nattens Madrigal in it’s caustic, minimalist, shrill, and at times, grating tones, but cut from the same general cloth as fellow East Coast/New  Yawk black metal brethren like Krallice, Woe, Castevet and even Wolves in the Throne Room. Woven deep into that sound is a tapestry of truly shimmering melodies and post-rock, droning, hypnotic repetition. While some of the  album’s more droning, repetitive moments do tend to wear, the times when Liturgy deliver something as brittle and piercing, yet epic and downright righteous as the likes of  “Returner” or “Tragic Laurel” — it’s truly something to behold.

The tone Liturgy achieve with their atonal and harshly high pitched riffage and simple, steady rhythm section is, at times, simply breathtaking. Unfortunately, there’s often a setback by way of some heavy handed experimentation or simple repetition. For instance, opener “High Gold” starts with some annoying twanging before unleashing a cacophony of sound that actually sounds like a 33rpm recording of an orchestra’s brass and string section warming up in different tunes at 78rpm, the tone is that high pitched it doesn’t sound like guitars, but it comes together to create something caustic yet hypnotic. It’s the dichotomy of moments that make Aesthethica so brilliantly divisive.

For every droning piece of needless, self indulgent, ‘get the fuck on with it’-filler or pretentious experimentation (i.e. “Generation”, “Helix Skull”, “Glass Earth” and to be honest,  a few moments of most of the tracks  like “Red Crown”, the forced sludge/post-rock pace of “Veins of God and the “is my CD skipping?” section of “True Will”), Liturgy literally assail the listener with some absolutely gorgeously chaotic melodies that threaten to go off the end of the human audio spectrum and make dogs whine — they get so intense and high pitched. The aforementioned opener “High Gold” and utterly magnificent duo of “Returner” or “Tragic Laurel” as well as “Glory Bronze”  and closer “Harmonia”—all with sections that make the the hairs on my neck stand on end—rank as some of the more magnificent orchestrated, melodic chaos I’ve ever heard.  But it comes at a price as many impatient listeners will consider the brittle, tremolo assault and insignificant and monotone shrieks of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix as simply too grating.

OK. Let me try and put this into a potential PR-quote that the label can use: “On Aesthethica, Liturgy convey a superfluity of cacophonous proto-black metal sonatas rendered with a juxtaposition of melodious auditory dexterity and discordant metaphysical convolution that transcends preconceptions of what music should be. Thusly Liturgy deconstructs the recognized paradigms of neo-black metal, while simultaneously recognizing and re-imagining the genre’s archaic manifestations and malefic precedents”.

Hey, that’s actually pretty good! Either way, this album will be on my rapidly filling 2011 year end list. And it’s only March!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 15th, 2011


  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    their blastbeats are so damned crazy. go give the first record another shot.

  2. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Poetico-mystical gesturing? :D

    Those thesaurus-fueled PR blurbs crack me up.

    I don’t care about the hipster connotations or the holier-than-thou attitude these guys exhibit, I care about the music. And the music’s boring. I like shoegazy, indie bm just fine but this just doesn’t click with me. At all. NEXT!

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