ABOVE THE CURRENT
Liturgy is often credited with playing a critical role in the rise of black metal outside of exclusive metal circles, creating a still-kinda-fresh nexus where extreme black metal and more broadly appealing instrumentation shake hands. But the self-described “transcendental black metal” band is so much more than that, as latest evidenced on their confoundingly next-level, soul-shattering experience: 93696. Liturgy is an ongoing music experiment in which centrifugal force Haela Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix shows equal affection for rock and electronic music. The band’s moniker is no accident, and on her expansive new album Hunt-Hendrix has reached the heavens to hit even greater heights with her glorious sound.
Hunt-Hendrix’s previous endeavors include composing the score to an opera and playing it live as Liturgy with an 11-piece orchestra. Other highlights include her surprise-releasing an album that completely revolved around her own lectures on philosophy. 93696 is another massively ambitious affair on which Liturgy finds new ways to surprise even the project’s most loyal fans (Litur-bugs?). Its title ties into Hunt-Hendrix’s own belief system, which includes four tenets: sovereignty, hierarchy, emancipation, and individuation. As if that weren’t enough of an intimidating prospect, Hunt-Hendrix says 93696 finds Liturgy moving away from metal and more toward a “punk-meets-classical” sound.
Hunt-Hendrix’s massive, full-throated delivery is the linchpin of Liturgy’s musical explorations. Closely resembling a church choir, it’s like the opposite of a Behemoth record, where the most brain-scrambling screeches are intended to summon Satan. Hunt-Hendrix’s vocals, instead, are a searing underscore to the rest of 93696, which is more funhouse than haunted house. On side-A closer “Angel of Hierarchy” and side-B opener “Red Crown II,” Liturgy’s sound gets so quiet it could give The Album Leaf a run for their money.
But then the thrilling adventure resumes, building up to the massive, 15-minute title track. Aside from Hunt-Hendrix’s screechery, “93696” and the penultimate song, “Antigone II,” are so jam-packed with distorted guitars that it’d be easy to confuse them with mid-career Sonic Youth. Those aforementioned reference points, balancing multiple storylines with her own spiritual journey, keep us guessing from start to finish. 93696 is heaven on Earth.