The Ark Work

Writing a review for an album is fairly easy, despite what my output would lead you to believe.  In metal there are only so many (accepted) routes you can take, and even the most off-the-wall shit is endured for at most an hour in most cases and according to the inspiration of the artist in question, can still be summed up in a couple of paragraphs.  Which is sad really- something that means so much to its creators and toiled over for months to years simply consumed, critiqued and discarded over the course of a couple of hours- but such is the nature of art, dispensable or not.

There are records where I feel I’m the right man for the job- my time is valuable and I can tell that the uninspired work on my desk is befitting the brief critique.  There are records that I adore and connect with enough where I want to spill myself to the public singing its praises.  Then, there are some where I’m not the man for the job.  There are some where I don’t think anyone is.  This is because there are some records that are not records.  They are compact revolutions in audio form, going places where criticism can only be heard on a superficial level because a movement is not subject to individual understanding let alone personal evaluation.  The task of reviewing such art is inherently flawed, but as shown in their music, interviews and attitudes, Liturgy doesn’t care.  Many writers may attempt to get their review to imitate the art it is critiquing by creating a form of art out of the review itself, but I’m not going to do that.  Because I feel reviewing this record is a flawed act I’m going to present a naked, objective depiction of what it was like for me to endure The Ark Work, and that will only be as effective as words on a page can be.

I knew the idea of black metal was not going to be a part of this record.  I put on headphones, went in blind, and was greeted with the midi trumpets of opener “Fanfare”, which come close to outstaying their welcome, and sound went over me in waves, joined by near-obtrusive bells and the eventual feeling of something big.  Despite the obviously synthetic trumpet sound there is an organic nature to the music that lulls you to a sense of comfort before being jarred by EDM stuttering that shocks the listener into understanding the duality of the record as a clash of organic and synthetic sounds washed in a lurid backdrop of melody that permeates many of its movements.

There is a feeling of humanistic passion cast beneath the shadow of a looming industrial grind that imbues the listener with the earnestness of hope combined with the inevitability of despair.  The arrangement of the record revolves around a few repeating themes that mutate beneath syncopated rhythms and varying vocal expressions, although all of them clean and never really metal, and probably more akin to Sunny Day Real Estate than say Windir.  Only once did I not feel enthralled by what I was hearing, as “Father Vorizon” tends to repeat a single militaristic theme quite exhaustively, although the song may be the most obvious foray into metal terrain.  Aside from that track, each chord and key change is an emotional journey that leads rather than dissipates.

The dubstep flirtations of “Vitriol” and “Quetzalcoatl” feel like less superficial gotcha moments and more a necessary movement within the overall narrative and contrast nicely with the organic tones of the harpsichord which opens the sprawling epic “Reign Array,” a centerpiece which combines the key themes of the entire record into a breathing mass of introspective action and consequence.  The closest comparison I can make is the leap in artistry that Solefald achieved with In Harmonia Universali, although that is a vary different record than this.  Most things will be.

We all remember what Liturgy’s Hunter Hunt-Hendrix wrote in his manifesto on “transcendental black metal.”  Maybe we don’t remember what really was said, but we remember the response.  The dude was young, had no legs to stand on in terms of writing a manifesto of any kind let alone on something as dear to us as metal, even further regarding a niche subgenre of it and his own mutation of it.  He became a pariah.  The passion of a visionary reduced to a meme.  That incident will follow him until the end of his music career, and every record he is part of will be cast in its shadow.  I’ve reread the manifesto since hearing this record.  I’ve listened to The Ark Work many times.  I’ve spent much time dissecting his art as well as his writings, and regarding the latter, upon fully digesting this record I came to a scary conclusion.

He was right.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jerry Hauppa
April 7th, 2015


  1. Commented by: Chris S.

    Great write up!

  2. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    It’s so rare nowadays to hear anything this new and adventurous in black metal. Which is a shame, of course, given how creative, stylish, and versatile the genre has become over its 25+ years. So I applaud this band for truly coloring outside the lines.

    And while I will always listen to anything once, that applies even moreso in this case, because I will likely never listen to this again. It’s fascinatingly awful.

  3. Commented by: Jerry

    I can understand how this would be grating to someone’s ears, but it’s impossible to deny the compositional strengths of the whole record. Not many bands can create a single thematic piece anymore.

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