Liturgy is an experimental Black Metal band from Brooklyn, NY. Or maybe not. Of all the many divisive bands in the fractious world of black metal, Liturgy are almost certainly the biggest. Part of this is due to frontwoman Haela Hunt-Hendrix's habit of trolling fans expertly (her "transcendental black metal" manifesto seems specifically designed to fuck with the black metal fandom's heads), and part of it is due to their music, which was never typical black metal even on early releases, and has gotten even less typical on later ones. Some of this is because many of the band's influences aren't exactly typical black metal fare - they've cited Swans, Lightning Bolt, and Glenn Branca as influences - and some of it's just because Hunt-Hendrix seems completely unwilling to conform to expectations of what a black metal band should be. Naturally, mentioning them on some forums, either positively or negatively, is instant Flame Bait.
Despite the polarised reception Liturgy's music has gotten amongst the black metal fandom, the band's sophomore effort Aesthethica was well received in the mainstream press. The band's third effort, The Ark Work, was a conscious attempt to move away from black metal (because Aesthethica's reception "turns [black metal] into safe territory"), and has received an even more polarised reception, with multiple reviewers outright accusing the band of trolling their audience. Despite this, the reaction in the mainstream press, such as The AV Club, The New York Times and NPR, has once again been mostly positive.
The band's fourth album, H.A.Q.Q. (meaning Haelegen Above Quality and Quantity), was released digitally in 2019 with no advance notice; a physical release appeared in early 2020. The band's fifth album, Origin of the Alimonies, appeared in late 2020. The two albums are fairly similar in style, starting at roughly the midway point between Aesthethica and The Ark Work, and then adding orchestral and classical elements. Reaction to these albums seems to have been less polarised overall. 93696, a double album recorded by Steve Albini, is set to be released in 2023.
Hunt-Hendrix came out as transgender in May 2020.
They also appeared on The Blacklist, with Peter Fonda on drums.
- Haela Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix - vocals, guitar
- Mario Marion - guitar
- Tia Vincent-Clark - bass
- Leo Didkovsky - drums
- Greg Fox - drums
- Tyler Dusenbury - bass
- Bernard Gann - guitar
- 2008 - Immortal Life (EP)
- 2009 - Renihilation
- 2011 - Split with Oval
- 2011 - Aesthethica
- 2015 - The Ark Work
- 2019 - H.A.Q.Q.
- 2020 - Origin of the Alimonies
- 2023 - 93696
- Album Intro Track: The first "Untitled" from Renihilation and "Fanfare" from The Ark Work.
- Avant-Garde Metal: As of The Ark Work, there really isn't any other way to describe them. Hell, even the metal part's up in the air, though H.A.Q.Q. and subsequent albums return more to metal territory.
- Breather Episode: The untitled tracks on Renihilation are structured as this, as are songs on later albums like "Helix Skull", "Glass Earth", and "Haelegen".
- Cover Version:
- They covered My Bloody Valentine's "No More Sorry" on Immortal Life, although so little of the original arrangement is left intact that it's barely recognisable as the same song. The biggest remaining giveaway is the chord progression.
- "Apparition of the Eternal Church" is an adaptation of a solo organ piece by French composer Oliver Messiaen.
- Epic Rocking: They started engaging fairly frequently with this on Aesthethica and haven't looked back since. The most extreme example is their split with Oval, Liturgy's side of which consists of a single, untitled track approaching twenty minutes in length. Their second longest song is the title track of 93696, which is nearly fifteen minutes long, followed by "Apparition of the Eternal Church" from Origin of the Alimonies, which is around fourteen minutes long. Apart from that, "Reign Array" from The Ark Work stands out at ten and a half minutes long (eleven and a half on some releases, depending on where the transition from "Haelegen" is marked), and they have quite a few other songs that top seven minutes in length.
- Fading into the Next Song: Around half of their song transitions, honestly.
- Gender-Equal Ensemble: The current lineup.
- Genre-Busting/Genre Mashup: If the band's earlier work doesn't qualify, The Ark Work definitely does. It's almost certainly the first album to attempt a synthesis of Black Metal, IDM, hardstyle, glitch, and Hip-Hop. One thing even its detractors have to admit is that there is nothing else in recorded music history that sounds like it. Later albums follow suit, starting about halfway between the sounds of The Ark Work and Aesthethica and then adding orchestral elements.
- Glitch: One of their major influences from The Ark Work forward.
- Good Counterpart: The goal of the band as stated in Hunt-Hendrix's infamous manifesto is essentially to be this to normal black metal, using elements of the genre like tremolo picking and blast beats to express growth and life rather than decay and death.
- Hidden Track: The CD of Aesthethica contains one. It is omitted from the LP version, which instead features an extended coda to "Veins of God".
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Even when she's singing, it's often very difficult to decipher what Hunt-Hendrix is saying. When she's screaming, forget it.
- Instrumentals: They have several, such as "Haelegen", "Fanfare", "Generation", "Veins of God", all three "Exaco" tracks, and the untitled closing track from H.A.Q.Q.. Others have only wordless vocals, such as "Untitled" from the split with Oval and "Harmonia".
- Jump Scare: The first track on Aesthethica starts with about a minute of strange electronic clanging noises before suddenly erupting into burst beats, tremolo picking, and screaming.
- Lead Drummer: Greg Fox' virtuosic playing is a core part of the first three albums' sound, with the guitar and drums often working in lockstep ("Generation" is a prime example of this). Leo Didkovsky is no slouch, either (a Pitchfork review of H.A.Q.Q. remarked, "If you never checked the credits, you may never notice the difference").
- Loudness War: Every album has a clipped master. This even extends to the vinyl version of at least Aesthethica. 93696, although it's still a fairly loud album, is less severe about this, as one might expect from a Steve Albini recording.
- Mind Screw: One major goal of the band with The Ark Work seems to have been to create one of these. Judging from the confounded reaction on the Internet, they succeeded at this.
- Minimalism/Three Chords and the Truth: Several songs consist of only a handful of notes, a trait which has earned comparisons to Meshuggah and Steve Reich (the latter of whom was almost certainly more whom the band had in mind). The most obvious example is "Generation", which consists entirely of two notes (which are an octave apart, even!) for at least 80% of the song's duration. The singing on The Ark Work is also very exhibitive of this trope, with some of the sung melodies consisting almost entirely of a single note. What their songs lack in melodic complexity, though, they make up for in rhythmic complexity, as is often the case with minimalist music. (And sometimes in metal - tool and Meshuggah's songs are known for being melodically simple but rhythmically almost impossible to follow.)
- Miniscule Rocking: Some of the interludes, plus a few early tracks. In particular, Immortal Life contains the 1:49 title track and the 1:18 "Everquest I". From Aesthethica onwards, though, very few of their tracks have been fewer than three minutes long, and "OIOION's Birth" is the only one after the first album that has fallen below the two-minute mark.
- New Sound Album:
- The Ark Work experiments with glitch, hip-hop, IDM, and hardstyle elements. There are still traces of black metal (there are still plenty of blast beats and tremolo picking), but there are no Harsh Vocals.
- H.A.Q.Q. is in some ways even weirder and more diverse, but is also more rooted in black metal. Origin of the Alimonies, although different in some ways, continues in a similar vein to H.A.Q.Q., and 93696 is the same sound taken up to 11.
- No Title: Four tracks on Renihilation are untitled, as is Liturgy's side of their split with Oval.
- Repetitive Audio Glitch: "HAQQ" culminates in one of these.
- Rock Opera: Origin of the Alimonies is a bona fide black metal opera, as explained in this review from Clash (which opens with the very much Not Safe for Work album cover).
- Scatting: "Harmonia", "Untitled" from the Oval split, some of the interludes on Renihilation.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Haela Hunt-Hendrix does this frequently. "Glass Earth" is just a collage of different vocal tracks synced up to create an effect like a choir.
- Shameless Fanservice Girl: Hunt-Hendrix poses topless, post-gender transition, on the cover for Origin of the Alimonies. This a somewhat odd example of this trope, as it's largely as an affirmation of her gender identity.
- Soprano and Gravel: Renihilation and Aesthethica alternate the traditional Harsh Vocals of black metal with some weird chanting. The latter of these is the sole vocal style on The Ark Work and the Oval split, while Immortal Life mostly just uses the Harsh Vocals.
- Subdued Section: Many of their metal songs have them.
- Uncommon Time: "Vitriol" is in 7/8. Other Liturgy songs utilise this trope as well, such as "Sun of Light" and "Veins of God".
- Word Salad Lyrics: Some of their lyrics read this way.