Liturgy: 'Aesthetica'

Liturgy

Aesthetica (Thrill Jockey)

The black-metal community is an essentially conservative one. Bands that stray too far from the form's established conventions—buzzing guitars, high-pitched shrieks, blast-beat drums, songs about Norse gods in the woods, and a general bad attitude—are unceremoniously booted out of the circle by the trve kvlt of hardcore black-metal ideologues.

Liturgy's daring and original 2009 debut, Renihilation, incorporated medieval choral music and modern composition into its maelstrom of guitar noise, which earned the Brooklyn band black-metal probation. The follow-up, Aesthetica, will likely mark Liturgy as false metal for the rest of its career. That's all too bad for the traditionalists, though, because Aesthetica is among the most exciting heavy music albums of the year so far.

The band is still intense—burners like "Veins of God" and "Harmonia" are heavier than anything on Renihilation—but ferocity is only part of the plan. Dense, repetitive staccato guitar riffs, chiming leads, and indecipherable celestial harmonies tower over complicated, jazzy rhythms for an effect that is both hypnotic and chaotic. It's that careful balance of opposites—chaos and transcendence, dark and light, beauty and noise—that makes Aesthetica interesting; singer/guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix obviously thinks about what he's doing, but he gets a big emotional wallop out of his cerebral approach.