Liturgy - The Ark Work (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


The Ark Work (2015)

Thrill Jockey

If you follow the world of black metal at all, you probably have an opinion on Liturgy. Before Deafheaven (although not that much before Deafheaven) Liturgy were the band that the internet black metal community loved to argue about. The group’s strange and intense blend of Transilvanian Hunger-style black metal with Lightning Bolt-style noise rock would have ruffled a few feathers even if frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix weren’t writing pretentious manifestos on “Transcendental Black Metal” and hanging out with members of Vampire Weekend. It’s been four long years since their last full-length Aesthetica dropped, during which half the band left and the other half jammed with Peter Fonda on a major network. They have since reconvened and released their third full-length, The Ark Work.

Opening the record, “Fanfare” lives up to its name, with the blare of horns that seem to announce the coming of royalty. However about halfway through, synthesized horns start to overtake the natural ones, and the sound becomes more of a twisted, jumbled mess with something more sinister bubbling underneath the surface. It is not until the next track “Follow” that we get Liturgy at full force. It sounds like a mathier, more technical version of the band we heard on Aesthetica, but polarizing frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s throat-shredding screeches (one of the most authentic black metal assets the group had going for them) have been replaced with tortured moans and atonal mumbling, not unlike Iceage’s Elias Ronnenfelt.

“Quetzalcoatl” is an album highlight. It takes black metal traditionalism and melds it with a mishmash of assorted electronic noises at rapid speed. If they make a Castlevania game in 2050, this is what the soundtrack will sound like. It’s terrifying and it’s awesome. “Vitriol” on the other hand is just weird. It begins with some group chanting that will sound immediately familiar to anyone that listened to Aesthetica. However it soon tranforms into an over five-minute hip-hop influenced electronic piece, with Hunt-Hendrix mumbling some art-school nonsense about “Turning your ashes to gold” over it. Listeners will find it to be either the most daring musical move by an ostensibly black metal band since Taake’s banjo solo, or unlistenable garbage. Liturgy doesn’t leave a lot of room for middle ground.

Liturgy has always been a very complicated band whose records take multiple listens to fully figure out. If nothing else, they are truly unique. They are a very singular band, with a very singular vision, making the kind of music they want to make in a scene that looks down on ambition and rewards traditionalism. For that alone, they deserve our respect. Their music isn’t for everybody, but those who enjoy musical adventurism would do well to give The Ark Work a try. Even if you hate it, you certainly won’t be bored. For those of us who are already on board, this is an exciting next step from Aesthetica, and it will be interesting to see where they can possibly go from here.