Liturgy – Aesthetica

written by: July 8, 2011
Release Date: May 10, 2011


Liturgy’s Aesthetica kicks off with a few clangs before unleashing its full-on banshee-howling fury. Immersing one’s self in this record is like witnessing the natural extension of the dry industrial hammering of Big Black, the chaotic maelstrom of J.G. Thirlwell’s Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel, the pummeling vamping of . . . And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (without the occasionally precious artsiness) and the strobe-lit, washboard grindcore rhythms reminiscent of their forefathers Napalm Death and Agoraphobic Nosebleed.

Perhaps those accustomed to subjecting their tympanic membranes to this “black metal” can cope with the wailing screaming used to deliver these unintelligible lyrics that pierces most of these lengthy compositions. If so, patience is rewarded with the dizzying speed with which the musicians jump from one melodic plateau to the next. This is headbanging music for the whiplash boy-child generation, and each track brings a new freneticism to the fore, like it’s a series of experiments in one-up manship that is continuing to climb to the peak of . . . the threshold of . . . the brink of . . . well, it’s never clear “of what” exactly, but the urgency with which the music is delivered cannot be denied.

The Brooklyn-based quartet is composed of Hunter Hunt Hendrix, Greg Fox, Tyler Dusenbury and Bernard Gann. This is their second album, and their first for indie label Thrill Jockey. According to the bio on the label’s website: “The band used every instrument, literal or figurative, to produce meaning and intensity, disregarding the genre boundaries of black metal, hardcore and experimental music.” There’s no question this release bridges multiple genres, but to what end?  There’s no question that this is intense—it’s almost impossible to take a breath during any of these cuts, and the space between them comes as a welcome relief.

So the intensity is there, granted. But the meaning? It’s hard to tell what any of this means.

“Helix Skull” sounds like E.T.’s Speak and Spell possessed by a Poltergeist and could put even a Brian Eno completist on the fast track to headachesville, but on “Glory Bronze” it’s back to the Trail of Dead-style instrumental grandiosity and the blood-curdling shrieks that come off as old hat by the time the listener gets to this, the eighth track.

Aside from “Helix Skull,” and the occasional odd madrigal or barbershop vocal flourish, very little distinguishes these compositions from each other. After 12 cuts of this, it gets a bit old. Not that it doesn’t rock, but when every track is played with the same “it goes to 11” intensity, and there’s not a lot of dynamic variation. The nice thing about Trail Of Dead is the peaks and valleys, but when the music is always at a peak, and there’s no “up” to get to, and no majestic valley to view and swoop down into, boredom soon follows.

Aesthetica is worthwhile for its musicianship, and energetically frenzied in its delivery, but when breakneck speed is the only constant, whiplash is a real and lasting threat. It’s entertaining and enjoyable at first blush, especially the instrumental tracks without the distracting high-pitched screaming, but it’s not worth more than a few spins unless one is participating in a neck or brain injury study.

Liturgy – Aesthetic Tracklist:

  1. “High Gold”
  2. “True Will”
  3. “Returner”
  4. “Generation”
  5. “Tragic Laurel”
  6. “Sun of Light”
  7. “Helix Skull”
  8. “Glory Bronze”
  9. “Veins of Gold”
  10. “Red Crown”
  11. “Glass Earth”
  12. “Harmonia”