Liturgy – Renihilation

Liturgy - Renihilation

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s legacy as the ignominious father of “transcendental black metal”1 will always and forever overshadow his project Liturgy. Renihilation is the first of such works fusing the black metal aesthetic with an ethos of “affirmation,” “hypertrophy,” and “the finite.”2 What this means is black metal with an ebullient, even ecstatic milieu.

Is it successful? Well… it certainly tries.3 To Hunt-Hendrix’s credit, Renihilation is quite distinct from other forms of black metal even to the ears of a newbie4. The songs aren’t Phrygian mode rehashes, but there’s some pretty decent musicianship – especially in “Mysterium.” Blast beats are abused so badly, Sarah McLachlan could write a song about them. True to his word, there is no hint of the depressive, depraved, or satanistic attitudes in Hunt-Hendrix’s songwriting. Tracks sound rather similar in full run-throughs, so don’t listen to the whole album in once sitting if you’d like to preserve the mystique.

Renihilation has enormous HOOBADOOBA Syndrome. Especially egregious is mid-album “Ecstatic Rite,” whose middle section has a break devoid of instruments other than Hunt-Hendrix’s “HUAGAHHAAAAGHHAAAHUAAAAAA.” It’s hilarious. Liturgy’s deal is to bring black metal into the light of gaiety rather than to remain within the darkness of nihilism5, but calling incoherent screaming “deep” while taking yourself as seriously as Hunt-Hendrix does crosses the line into absurdity. Sure, Burzum has plenty of “HIIIYAAAAHHAAAA” in his albums, but Varg wasn’t trying to make a statement about it.

Interestingly, Renihilation‘s strength as a cohesive album is undeniably due to its interludes.6 Formally designated as “untitled,” one may be put off by them taking up four out of the eleven total tracks, but they add well to the album’s pace by providing a nice palette-cleanser in between the exhausting7 black metal anthems that would otherwise blend together and largely diminish appeal.8 Three of them are chants with some electronic-drone backing, while the penultimate interlude is a guitar solo that is decent in its own right.

Liturgy’s debut is strange and uneven, but it’s curious enough to warrant a listen. Renihilation runs out of ideas toward the end, which is ironic given the its circumstances.9 It succeeds in establishing itself as different from other types of black metal, but one does not have to think too hard to understand why Hunt-Hendrix is often called out as the archetype musician of hipster-black metal. Check it out, just don’t take it too seriously.

1. [Untitled Track] – (1:54) – ★★★★☆
2. Pagan Dawn – (5:46) – ★★★★☆
3. Mysterium – (4:42) – ★★★★★
4. [Untitled Track] – (0:57) – ★★★★★
5. Ecstatic Rite – (4:43) – ★★★☆☆
6. Arctica – (4:40) – ★★★★★
7. [Untitled Track] – (1:51) – ★★★★☆
8. Beyond the Magic Forest – (3:23) – ★★★☆☆
9. [Untitled Track] – (2:18) – ★★☆☆☆
10. Behind the Void – (4:18) – ★★★☆☆
11. Renihilation – (4:03) – ★★★☆☆

Overall: ★★★½☆

1It’s surprisingly difficult to find a copy of his manifesto, but you can read an excerpt here: http://www.vice.com/read/not-fit-to-print-transcendental-metal
2As per the manifesto.
3Oh Lord, does it try.
4Renihilation was one of the first albums (from a band I didn’t know) that I played on V89’s heavy metal show.
5Hence the album title, which I only just now got.
6And usually, I loathe excessive use of interludes.
7To be frank.
8One can only take so much Liturgy. I briefly alluded to this earlier in the review: the songs pretty much sound the same and aren’t too distinguished from each other. It’s extraordinarily prevalent in much of Liturgy’s work, but it’s more obvious on Renihilation than most.
9This would largely be rectified on follow-up album Aesthetica.

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