After Liturgy’s debut, 2009′s awesomely titled Renihilation, the Brooklyn black metal crew returns to melt faces with the not-as-awesomely titled Aesthethica. The triple-alliterative vocalist/guitarist Hunter Hunt Hendrix provides atmospheric squeals into the air occasionally, but he is for the most part a guitarist first and a vocalist second (and a lyricist third, his subject matter rarely going deeper than “BLARRRRGH” and the occasional “YEAAHHUHHHRRHH”).
Liturgy’s songs build on a steady rhythmic line, slowly escalating over the course of around five minutes but sometimes reaching into the seven-minute mark. Greg Fox’s drumming plays circles around each of the vamps from Hunter Hunt Hendrix (his name cannot be separated), becoming more intricate as the song continues. Songs like “Harmonia” succeed in the spaces between the changes, as parts shift like the tracks on a high-powered WWII tank. The result is a black metal album that is focused less on bludgeoning and more on exploring the interesting tension between distorted guitars and hyper-technical drums.
However, it is 65 minutes long, and bludgeoning does occur. Aesthethica becomes a question of endurance rather than personal preference, unless one’s personal preference is to get bludgeoned, over the head, with an aluminum croquet mallet, repeatedly (but oh, it’s such a technically accomplished croquet mallet!). The songs, while compositionally complex and structurally interesting, are almost all straight black metal, which by definition gets something approaching repetitive. The few stylistic deviations are the choral “Glass Earth” and the 2:30 “Helix Skull,” which is a complexly arpeggiated synth line (or effect-laden guitar, which would be more impressive and may explain the indulgence) that sounds like it’s out of SNES (or at most Dreamcast). It’s not much of a deviation as an experiment, because the sounds of the rest of the album and the Garage Band-y “Helix Skull” are pretty much mutually exclusive. Liturgy wrote a hell of an album. Aesthethica is jugular-grabbing black metal—startling, complex … and also quite long.