Liturgy – H.A.Q.Q. (n/a, 2019)
Avant-Garde Metal / Black Metal / Glitch | USA
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s latest surprise musical endeavor with Liturgy showcases and further develops all of the Brooklyn-based outfit’s highly controversial innovations on the black metal formula. Despite backlash from genre traditionalists effectively excommunicating them from the scene as a whole, the band stays determined to stick to their own artistic vision, fusing black metal with avant-garde composition, hip-hop, electronic and glitch elements, and larger-than-life, ritualistic instrumental passages evocative of religious ecstasy.
GLITCH IN THE NORTHERN SKY
H.A.Q.Q.’s (2019, YLYLCYN) title (an acronym for “Haelegen above Quality and Quantity”) and cover art are very much in the spirit of Hunter-Hendrix, who has at this point become infamous for his continuous efforts to establish his own coherent philosophical system, not only through his musical endeavors, but also through his more theoretical writings, manifestos, and flowcharts (in the style of the album’s cover art) acting as visual guides to the structure of the contentious frontman’s ever-evolving doctrine.
At a water-tight 45 minutes, H.A.Q.Q. is the band’s most concise effort to date. The opening track sets a frantic tone with ascending, manic electronics giving way to a sonic onslaught of guitars and percussion, with the distorted lead melody at points glitching the song into a halt. Distant choral vocals bleed into the screeching guitars and electronics, peaking in their heavenly intensity at the end of the track, seamlessly transitioning into one of the shorter, more bare interlude tracks. ,,EXACO I“ sounds like something one would get playing a flashy, technical metal guitar solo on a piano that glitches when the song can’t seem to keep up with its own pace and trips over itself – the frantic, dizzying effort of the music on H.A.Q.Q. to outrun or outgrow itself is a recurring theme on the album.
BLOOD FIRE GLITCH
,,VIRGINITY“ incorporates regal harp riffs with distorted vocals and guitars, and rapid-fire, machine gun style percussion. The foreboding, wind-like choral vocals blend with the song’s overall noise to create a feeling of profound dread. Without even taking a breath, the album transitions into the epic ,,PASAQALIA“, framing the black metal distortion with a grand string arrangement and gentle glockenspiel, building an awe-inducing, almost apocalyptic atmosphere. In that regard it’s reminiscent of the early works of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with the sonic intensity and sheer magnitude increased tenfold.
The second interlude track’s dissonant vibraphone, piano and throaty, chanting vocals are positively unsettling, thus amplifying the sense of bliss and relief of the violin intro into ,,GOD OF LOVE“. However, this brief reprieve works as kind of a bait-and-switch: about a minute in, the song explodes in a burst of black metal annihilation that keeps manically accelerating seemingly to no limit, the sprinting noise only occasionally interpolated by a winding choral melody. With each sprint getting faster and more chaotic, by the end the song crashes into itself, crushed by its own weight and intensity, with a joyous, blissful resolve.
The title track feels like a chaotic, claustrophobic, crushing summation of all that’s come before it, re-introducing the opener’s shrieking guitars and mournful choir, mimicking the direction of its predecessors with layers upon layers of chaos stacking until the song “crashes” like an overloaded computer, unable to sustain its own unbearable weight, and getting stuck in a screaming glitch until it has nowhere to go but to explode into beautiful, overwhelming catharsis. This resolution would’ve provided a much more satisfying send-off than the muffled, distorted guitar outro that closes the album instead, but this comparatively weaker ending doesn’t greatly diminish the album’s overall strong presence.
H.A.Q.Q. provides Liturgy’s strongest argument for their radical black metal reform yet. Overwhelming, massive, and ecstatic, it demonstrates its creators’ desire to reach beyond the limitations of music, to grow into something infinitely larger than itself.
FAVORITE TRACKS: ,,HAJJ“; ,,PASAQALIA“; ,,GOD OF LOVE“; ,,H.A.Q.Q.“
LEAST FAVORITE TRACKS: N/A