I remember hearing that rock music was once considered “of the devil”. Elvis Presley was too hot for television in a far different era than what we’re accustomed to now. It makes for a humorous and anachronistic comparison, seeing Presley as a racy performer, only to evolve and watch Marilyn Manson get blamed for school shootings, or personally-championed death metal act Marduk releasing a 1991 demo titled Fuck Me Jesus (the cover art is still on controversial par with Blind Faith’s one and only LP).
Metal music of the ’90s (and less frequently, the ’00s) does not escape the fray any more than classic rock-and-roll did during the ’50s. It’s a proven fact that all genres with a widespread following also develop a sense of pride that can divide the masses in terms of what one considers “real metal”, specifically regarding sub-genre sorting or glorification. Death metal (Marduk, Cannibal Corpse, Katatonia), doom metal (Candlemass), progressive metal (Mastodon, The Ocean, ISIS), thrash metal (Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer)…the list is practically endless, but one thing they all have in common? Balls-to-the-wall power.
Power is a staple, much like elements of speed can be likened to punk or thrash avenues (even hardcore and screamo), and as any person who’s familiar with Spider-Man can tell you, Benjamin Parker said it best: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Liturgy is a New York-based self-proclaimed “transcendental black metal” band, but I qualify them as noise metal. I say “metal” with a heavy heart, and “noise” in some pejorative sense, but mind you, I’m also a fan of noise rock (see: HEALTH). The album Aesthethica opens at the scratchy introduction of “High Gold” before barreling down with sincerely non-stop sound. There is a faint keyboard nuance, we hit the wall prior to Gregorian chants that mark the start of “True Will”, the track “Returner” that tries far too hard at its job, and the ridiculously hardcore resemblance of “Generation”.
The only real break anyone gets from this sloppy mess of barrages is “Helix Skull” — a straight-up keyboard instrumental that…just…doesn’t belong. At all.
Liturgy is on to its second full-length release, and in the bare-bones practical perspective, their theoretical approach could work (emphasis on “theoretical”). If stripped of all pretense, the terms “noise” and “metal” can yield a bit of offensive redundancy, and the problem with Liturgy lies in execution of trying to outdo the very foundation of its own settings, while paying no mind to how noise or metal really operates. I’m a firm believer that anything is possible with music, and everything has a market (size notwithstanding); unfortunately, if you’re going to try and be chaotic like Dillinger Escape Plan, then hone a theme along the lines of Mastodon or [insert foreign death metal act here], and turn around with a blatant abuse of the “wall of sound” concept…it becomes strictly anthemic noise that few could tolerate.
There are positive pieces at play on Aesthethica, and the parts that work function very well. The latter half of “Generation” and “Red Crown” is pretty damned sweet, and “Veins Of God” or “Bronze Glory” take a sound that the New Wave of American Metal (see: Lamb of God) made popular, and cranks it up to 11. These are very good things, but by the time we arrive there, the utter annoyances have already pissed you off. The second half of this record is where all of your solid groundbreaking occurs, but the beginning feels as if someone took a Torche song and destroyed it with static.
Liturgy is experimenting with an extremely volatile bombast that could polarize an already scattered plot, and truth be told, while I hear some metal fans scoff at ‘em, they could eventually work. Aesthethica is still only the second stage of development; we do not know where anything goes from here. My advice? If you want good metal with time signatures to make your head spin in circles, check out Animals As Leaders; though, if you’re more the straightforward sort, perhaps go trekking to Sweden for the darker stuff (even satanic metal does exist).
Don’t let Liturgy limit your scope in thinking simple noise walls make for good metal — they don’t. Despite insulting phrases slung about like “hipster metal”, and that I would sooner tag Death From Above 1979 in such a horrendous category, plateaus are boring, flat, and the first act of Aesthethica is precisely that (though lead vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix asserts they’re on some higher plane). I’d rather break out the Kylesa.