AT THIS PRESENT MOMENT no band in black metal is getting more press, earning more ire, harvesting more praise, and sparking more controversy than Liturgy. They are not slathering themselves in the blood of hoofed animals or burning down churches, but the Brooklyn quartet is laying down the gauntlet and starting an exhausting war of words with the black metal community. The band's music has become secondary—as it should be, since Liturgy is certainly not black metal.
While most early black metal bands employed Satanism as a catalyst for shock, it was an artistic response to the loss of Norwegian and Scandinavian culture and the influx of Christianity that dominated public schools and government. The first and second waves were angry, had soul, were raw, and got the point across; there was conflict throughout these records. There is none of this in the music of Liturgy. No sense that they feel loss, remorse, hatred, or grief.
If you are seeking strong emotion you can find it not in their music, but in their press clippings. Lead singer Hunter Hunt-Hendrix—when not referring to his own band as "hipsters"—uses an incredibly heavy hand to force the band's ideals and self-imposed genre-bending brand, "transcendental black metal music," down the throats of the angry black metal elite. As Liturgy pontificates on how the ideals of the old watch are dated and keeping music stagnant, most diehard fans of the genre would beg to disagree. To the gatekeepers of black metal culture, Liturgy are sitting at a table in a vegetarian restaurant inhaling quarter pounders as they explain that they are still vegetarians, they've just moved beyond eating only vegetables.
Evolution is one thing; becoming a different species is another. The change that Liturgy champions with their new album Aesthethica was already there. Black metal's evolution from a singular focus in bands like Mayhem and Venom to embracing a broader and richer ethos with Urfaust and Negative Plane is staggering, but Hunt-Hendrix's attempt to anoint Liturgy as a band operating within that evolution is flawed.
On Aesthethica, the mimicry is definitely there; a unique drum beat similar to blasting, tremolo picking, and piercing vocals—all crucial ingredients—are present and accounted for. Liturgy are challenging, spastic, chaotic, and they are doing something different. It's just not black metal.