Liturgy – The Ark Work
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is a Brooklyn musician who has an academic-level philosophy outlining his vision of transcendental black metal, which involves a lot of overthinking that seemed galvanizing when it was paired with an album like Aesthetica and a lot less so when you consider it in context with The Ark Work. Aesthetica was an album that was as polarizing in the black metal community as Sunbather would be a couple of years after it. It was stylistically American black metal – the hoar-frost vocals, the blastbeats, the fuzzed-out atmospherics – but it switched out the immature Satanism and borderline-and-beyond anti-Semitism of Norwegian black metal for something more philosophically in line with peace and love, or something to that effect. While Hunt-Hendrix and Liturgy weren’t the first to mark a change in the narrative of black metal – credit for that goes primarily to the Cascadian scene and the nature-worshipping Wolves In The Throne Room – they were the first to take it so seriously that their ideas were presented at an academic conference. It was a powerful album that drove a rather punk-inflected, politically reactionary kind of music towards a more progressive, more intelligent end.
The Ark Work doesn’t continue this narrative. Hunt-Hendrix had professed a desire to move beyond black metal into more electronic areas, but this album is something else entirely. Just exactly what is unclear. It’s not quite brutal enough to be black metal, although there are blurred blastbeats throughout the album. It’s not quite an electronic blend, unless we’re all content with calling cheap, thrift-store MIDI presets “electronic” now. There’s faded, screamed vocals, but there’s no power in them. There’s rapped sections, but they come off as uncomfortably cheesy more than anything else. There’s glitch sections, but they sound half-formed; rather than being a cohesive part of a statement of art, they sound as though the songs were merely rendered on an old refurbished desktop and no one could be bothered to fix them.
What the hell is the point of all of this? This just feels like a bad joke from a trust-funded musical tourist. I can’t imagine anyone hearing the master tapes full of synth cheese, lazily shouted vocals, and badly manipulated sections and thinking that it was anything that anyone should seriously release. “Reign Array” has some old spark of life to it, but the fact that the stinking corpse of “Vitriol” comes right after it outlines almost every problem this album has. Here’s hoping Deafheaven doesn’t disappoint this badly.