Band: Liturgy
Best song: “Generation” is terrific
Worst song:It’s legit hard to pick a worst song. It’s a terrific album that should be treated as one work, I think.

I’ve written in this space about my adoration for record labels/companies and the way that these organizations themselves seemed to stoked the scenes in my formative years. Thrill Jockey was one of those labels, being the home of my favorite band, Tortoise.

I was a Thrill Jockey evangelist in my late teens and early twenties. My favored self-portrait – this was pre-smartphone, so I set up a timer on my primitive digital camera – was of me, in a black knit Thrill Jockey toque, in front of a TNT poster.

I say this all to note that I fell off from this sort of thing as I got older and the way music moved about the world changed. Streaming and pirating and whatever – the Internet, really – was such that discovering music was easier, though probably less satisfying. My tastes changed and I moved to more extreme music. More than that, Thrill Jockey was never a musical monolith of a label. While, yes, the label had a slew of post-rock bands, it also featured international stars and Freakwater and whatever the hell Lightning Bolt is.

Enter Liturgy.

Liturgy is some combination of post-rock and death metal, wrapped in Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s mostly opaque philosophy. The band’s ​​aesthetic speaks a million words, from the name to the crosses – regular and inverted – on Aesthethica’s cover. Hunt-Hendrix wrote her spiritual tome “Transcendental Black Metal: A Vision of Apocalyptic Humanism” years before Aesthethica was released, though the philosophy seemed to inhabit the music more on the next record.

Hunt-Hendrix styles herself as something of a philosopher, albeit a mostly solitary one. She’s not a religious community leader (or cult leader, depending on your definition of the word) in any sense of the term; she has no geography or physical sanctuary, she has no followers of consequence. She almost operates in a vacuum, as far as I can tell.

Much of this goes online or through her music, which is terrific. Her theological vision – she famously decried the first two Liturgy albums upon The Ark Work’s release, saying “I was never happy with any other Liturgy release. I didn’t want to release them. But the aim with this one (The Ark Work) was to take that musical vibe and execute it all the way – – and I love it.” – permeates her work more with each record and she will release some long essay or post or tome or another online.

For me, it’s hard to figure out exactly what Transcendental Black Metal is or what Hunt-Hendrix’s philosophy’s grand work is or is trying to be. I’m a theological idiot and I have enough nihilism in me that I find it hard to digest even coherent theology.

Side note: Perhaps all theology is just that: incoherent. Most faith traditions are sculpted through years of evolution. There’s a legend that Rabbi Akiva said “The fundamental principle of the Torah is the commandment, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’” I tend to try and run with that.

Another side note: There is some fair criticism of Hunt-Hendrix’s seeming paper-thin understand of theology in a recent chart she posted online.

I can’t say I disagree that I think it’s stupid, thogh I’ll say that such thinking is not going to take me away from listening to Liturgy, especially the band’s early work. There is an art v. artist thing to contemplate here, but more than anything, I suspect Hunt-Hendrix’s theology is not something I need to care about.

Because ultimately, the record is the record. The second of the band’s output finds a screaming, thrashing band beating a riff into submission, noodling and painting an aggressive atmosphere. Combining elements of post-gaze and extreme metal, Liturgy takes as much from Lightning Bolt as it does from My Bloody Valentine. Songs like “Glory Bronze” soar, while “Helix Skull” centers around a keyboard combo that is as mesmerizing as it is beautiful.

The instrumental “Generation” is something between repetitive and minimalist in its arrangement, making it one of the best songs of its kind I’ve ever heard. Adding minimal lines to a driving riff, while building to a coda, the song makes the most of the least. It’s an aggressive masterpiece.

— Liturgy’s more-recent work has become more monasterial and more theological. I like some of it, incoherent as it often is. But, Aesthethica is the record in which the band rocked the most.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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