New Criticals

(“The Ark Work” album cover courtesy of Grandstand HQ PR)

According to my conversationalists at the bar, Liturgy who were now on their third full length, had become acceptable instead of infuriating because their music had evolved from simply replicating black metal tropes. They were no longer “hipsters” trying to tap into the mystery of an obscure and extreme subculture (posers). They had shaken off their scarlet letter as the band’s creative ambitions widened. In other words, according to this fan, they were no longer a threat to the authenticity and sanctity of the genre because of how many other styles they now touch on. Tough critics.

Perhaps the anticipation of conversations like this, is exactly why Liturgy’s new album “The Ark Work” (Thrill Jockey) is so expansive and increasingly more brave in its interpretation of black metal, replete with Gregorian-style chants, marching drum patterns, long sequences of spectral droning, a range of sounds played not just from guitar, bass and drums, but also from horns, digital beats, piano, violin and bagpipes.

It’s important to note just how important Liturgy were among independent rock music fans and journalists during the late aughts when the conversations around black metal started going viral. The 4-piece on their debut “Renihilation” (20 Buck Spin) were exploring the textures and dynamics of a style of music that fueled church burning in Norway during the early ‘90’s. The same style of music performed by men in theatrical black leather, spiked adornments, and masked in corpse paint. Liturgy were decidedly not of the theatrical ilk (they play in t-shirts and slacks). Perhaps the more notorious “offense” committed by the band, was frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s essay on what he considered to be the band’s transcendental take on black metal.