Thrill Jockey
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Daily Bread
02. Djennaration
03. Caela
04. Angel of Sovereignty
05. Haelegen II
06. Before I Knew the Truth
07. Angel of Hierarchy
08. Red Crown II
09. Angel of Emancipation
10. Ananon
11. 93696
12. Haelegen II (Reprise)
13. Angel of Individuation
14. Antigone II
15. Immortal Life II

Black metal was always meant to be about individuality and a fuck-you attitude, and so it's always laughable when supposed purists get upset about the subversion of non-existent rules. LITURGY found themselves on the receiving end of much shrieking opprobrium when they first emerged, but the New York band's radical stance and even more radical music were so obviously great that the bleating of idiots soon dissolved to a faint, disgruntled whisper. From the band's drone-driven 2009 debut "Renihilation" to the avant-garde indulgence of 2020's "Origin of the Alimonies", singer/guitarist Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix's vision has only ever used black metal as a launchpad. As ever, the excitement lies in discovering where the songs on "93696" touch down.

LITURGY fans have learned to expect the unexpected, but there is an insane amount of information being hurled into the air during what is an exhilarating but often overwhelming, 83-minute mind-fuck. With Hunt-Hendrix spitting icy venom and howling at the sky, "Djennaration" is as intense as it gets here. Following a sparse vocal intro, it's the perfect, whirlwind introduction to this album: a violent and chaotic post-everything anti-jam, with insidious, layered melodies and jarring textural glitches. It's completely mad and utterly enthralling. And so it begins.

At heart, "93696" is a blizzard of ideas: a sustained and gleeful hammering at the creative coalface, as LITURGY expand their own crackpot musical vocabulary as far as possible. The clangorous racket of songs like "Caela" and "Before I Knew the Truth" takes the band's sound ever further into the deeply left-field post-hardcore of bands like DON CABALLERO and UPSILON ACRUX. But really this astonishing body of work is best exemplified by its most joyously out-there moments. "Haelegen II" is a runaway train of monochrome post-rock clatter and surging, heavenly choir crescendos; "Ananon" is a thunderous chunk of cut 'n' shut noise rock with stuttering electronics and MAGMA-like backing vocals; the lush orchestration and indelible tension of "Angel of Individuation" and three other understated interludes seem to belong to another world entirely.

There are always new boundaries to set ablaze, however, and LITURGY will leave no brain unspun with the two towering epics that provide their sixth album with its greatest payoffs. The 14 mind-bending minutes of "Antigone II" switch from billowing clouds of scabrous noise to a spidery, angular, KING CRIMSON-like agit-rock workout, and beyond, to an explosive collision between the blackest, most atonal shoegaze riffs imaginable and LITURGY's willfully perverse, abstract noise sensibilities. The title track, somewhat unbelievably, is even more unhinged. Sprinkled with tinkling glockenspiels, it ends in spectacular and pointedly cinematic fashion, as far removed from mundane notions of black metal as it is from the limited scope of the metal mainstream. Whatever "93696" is, it's worth experiencing loud and in full. No one else makes music quite like this.

Author: Dom Lawson
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