A metaphysical philosophy exemplified through ‘complete art’
Brooklyn’s Liturgy have long cemented themselves into the canon of black metal and the avant-garde with their critically-acclaimed album Aesthethica (2011). In the years since, however, guitarist and vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix has yearned to avoid self-imitation and has lovingly embraced the universe of experimental and electronic music, in addition to developing her complex philosophical ideologies that have emerged as central points of content on both Liturgy’s HAQQ (2019) and her side project Kel Valhaal. Those curious about the ideologies should look into her ongoing YouTube series on her ‘System of Transcendental Qabala.’
On Liturgy’s fifth full-length album, Hunt-Hendrix delves further into her vision of total art, labeled Perichoresis, drawing from the Greek term which refers to the relationship between the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Origin of the Alimonies is for certain Liturgy’s most ambitious release, featuring Bernard Gann on guitars and new additions Leo Didkovsky and Tia Vincent-Clark on drums and bass, respectively.
Hunt-Hendrix composed, directed and starred in the video opera Origin of the Alimonies, which was screened in October 2018. It was shown with a live score performed by Liturgy alongside an 11-piece chamber ensemble. A live action performance of the opera was also staged in Los Angeles in November of 2019, alongside the Liturgy release HAQQ. Featuring extremely wide breadths of genre-fusions with contemporary and avant-garde classical music, yet with a crisp, clear production sheen that highlights elements of metal that appear as well, in Hendrix’s own words exploring “Wagner, microtonality, free improvisation, (and) polymetric structures.'”
‘The Seperation of HAQQ From HAEL” beckons the listener with hauntingly eerie orchestration, opening up the project with a gorgeous artistic integrity and grit that fuels the despair, confusion, fury and litany of emotions that are experienced throughout the record. The two singles, and arguably most fundamental pieces of the composition(s), “Lonely OIOION” and “SIHEYMN’s Lament,” both lament somewhat familiar territory in the vein of semi-avant, black-metal hodgepodge of genre tags that made Liturgy so beloved to begin with. Each stands out as some of Liturgy’s best and most quality art thus far.
“Lonely OIOION,” in particular, remains an intricately composed piece, starting with Wagner-esque chamber orchestra volume and instrument swells, building up in post-rock fashion into a vaguely cacophonic melodic progression, ascending and erupting into sheets of beautiful atmospheres. “SIHEYMN’s Lament,” interestingly enough, begins with trap beats, and embedded on top of some vocal tracks, screamed and clean, again gradually evolving into a more epic orchestral piece, accompanied by flutes, strings, harps and more.
The sensation this music evokes is akin to floating, suspended in a vacuum of confusion and beauty. This soon breaks down into a heavier chugging section, leading into the interesting “Apparition of the Eternal Church,” a roughly 14-minute piano-supported black metal work with hellishly shrieked vocals and meticulously arranged, impressionist instrumentation à la Debussy and Satie.
Additionally, the two previously mentioned pieces are segmented by “The Fall of SIHEYMEN” and “The Armistice,” two huge pieces of noisy rock music. The former builds up and is predicated by an aura of grief and suspense through minimalism and even a 2010 Swans-style emotional meltdown in its final moments. The latter was seemingly produced solely to be another soaring climax, flirting yet again with the elements of post-rock and noise-rock that define and contain the pieces themselves.
Not often are metal bands, let alone ones often associated with the black metal scene, able to pursue more extravagant and ambitious pursuits, especially at the level shown on Origin of the Alimonies. Hunt-Hendrix’s efforts are not in vain, as the album is her most ambitious and interesting thus far. The confusing and twisting catalogue of philosophies and theories that Hunt-Hendrix explores on her personal YouTube channel as well the lyricism and concepts on Liturgy albums, especially HAQQ (2020), is no stranger on this release, yet doesn’t take away from the amount of genres and styles shown here, and how well each and every one of those composition makeups are truly done.