Liturgy – 93696

Posted: 22 March 2023 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thrill Jockey – 24th March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Wikipedia, and most other sources for that matter, will tell you that ‘Liturgy is an American black metal band from Brooklyn, New York’. The band’s own bio, which explains how their brand of ‘“transcendental black metal” exists in the space between metal, experimental, classical music and sacred ritual’ and that ‘The band is simultaneously a platform for fine art and theology’ is rather more illuminating in explaining how they have vastly expanded their horizons and those of the genre to create a form which is truly unique.

93696 is very much a concept-based work, which is best explained by quoting: ‘93696 is a number derived from the religions of Christianity and Thelema, a numerological representation of heaven, or a new eon for civilization. Hunt-Hendrix composed the album as an exploration of eschatological possibility divided by the four “laws” that govern her own interpretation of heaven, “Haelegen”: Sovereignty, Hierarchy, Emancipation, and Individuation. These laws constitute the four movements of 93696 which act as dramas all their own within the framework of the record.’

And what a record. ‘Epic’ barely touches it. It’s immense in every way, not least of all duration, with fifteen tracks spanning the best part of an hour and a half, this is expansive on a scale akin to SWANS (who they’ve previously supported). It’s also every bit as dynamically charged as latter-day SWANS albums, with tracks anything up to a quarter of an hour in length powering though a succession of crescendos, via sweeping choral soundscapes.

‘Djeennaration’ packs everything in early, presenting eight-and-a-half minutes of frenetic fretwork and thunderous percussion, over which vocals switch from angelic to demonic and back in the blast of a beat. It’s powerful, and quite bewildering in both its force and cinematic scope.

Done differently, this could feel overlong and pretentious, but the execution is so precise and the great ambition so focused on realisation that everything feels remarkably organic and despite making gigantic leaps between passages, changing tempo and tone here, there, an everywhere, it flows. Shuddering slabs of power chords that crunch like quartz while blasts off pure noise tear the air, but as ‘Haelegen II’ shows, with the incorporation of piano, there’s so much more texture and detail than plan fast-as-fuck fret attacks – then, from out of nowhere, things take a turn into folksy post-rock.

The savage squall of ‘Before I Knew the Truth’, released as a single a few weeks ago distils the potent force of the entire album into four and a half flooring minutes. There are some brief – and strange – moments of respite, such as the quavering woodwind tones of the brief interlude that is ‘Red Crown II’ and the delicate keys of ‘Angel of Emancipation’, and they’re most necessary, as the majority of 93696 is a force beyond nature.

The fifteen-minute title track is nothing short of an absolute monster, and as much as it’s n obliterative squally, it’s also a dynamic and wide-ranging sonic and cerebral experience, culminating in a vast orchestral sweep that’s nothing short of stunning.

This does feel very much like an absolute pinnacle and a definitive and exhaustive – and, it has to be said, exhausting – statement. Transcendental indeed.



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