At some point, it becomes impossible to continue making excuses for the terrible things done by bands you like.
When Hunter Hunt-Hendrix went on his sixth-former ramblings about transcendent Black Metal, I ignored it, since 2009’s Renihilation and 2011’s Aesthetica broadly spoke for themselves and offered an intriguing and powerful dose of experimental metal. When bassist Tyler Dusenbury and the frankly irreplaceable drummer Greg Fox left the band in 2011, Liturgy’s musical credibility floated in murky waters, but they admirably pressed on. When they released The Ark Work this year, however, the common accusations of Liturgy’s pretentiousness and creative dishonesty seemed more and more valid.
Even with Fox and Dusenbury back in the band, the glitchy IDM-influenced album was a harsh departure from the memorable and tight compositions on their first two records. It also formed the basis for much of their live setlist. Gone was the earth-shattering centrepiece of Aesthetica, ‘Veins of God’, replaced by Dutch Gabber-echoing songs like the bizarre ‘Quetzalcoatl’. Gone also were Hunt-Hendrix’s screamed vocals, replaced by a somehow even more divisive form of tuneless ululating at a mercifully low volume. The audience confusedly, and, dutifully, applauded these numbers, saving their genuine praise for older material, such as signature Liturgy tune ‘Generation’—by far the best song of the night.
Of course, Greg Fox’s drumming was a joy to watch, as it was when he toured with experimental electronic composer Ben Frost last year. If only Liturgy’s relationship with electronic music had veered more in that direction. I hope there is still some life left in this sort of music, but for now, Liturgy stand as an inexcusably limp imitation of their older selves, epitomised by the tragic New Balance x Burzum t-shirt look sported by one audience member.