Philosophical Metal: Liturgy
Published December 3, 2009
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix does not wear corpse paint. Nor has he, or any of the other three members of Liturgy, the black metal band Hunt-Hendrix founded, ever set fire to a church, bathed in pig’s blood, or eaten human flesh, like some of his Scandinavian metal counterparts. In fact, Hunt-Hendrix, an unobtrusive, hyper-literate 24-year-old Columbia graduate, doesn’t adhere to most of the stereotypes associated with black metal, except that he likes to play it.
Nonetheless, Hunt-Hendrix and Liturgy are helping to carve out a space for black metal within the Brooklyn independent music scene. Liturgy’s particular flavor of black metal is one that draws from the genre’s musical conventions–breakneck drumbeats, shrieked lyrics, droning guitars–but rejects satanic imagery and nihilism for what Hunt-Hendrix described to Pitchfork as “violent, apocalyptic joy.” Some people call their sound “white metal.” Hunt-Hendrix describes it as “pure transcendental black metal.”
“There was a moment, and it felt really obvious that that’s what I should call it,” explains Hunt-Hendrix. “I just knew it was perfect.” Hunt-Hendrix drew his inspiration from a regional Valhalla, invoking Emerson and Whitman, “the local gods of Northeastern America.” Last year, Liturgy expanded from its roots as Hunt-Hendrix’s solo project to include drummer Greg Fox, bassist Tyler Dusenbury, and guitarist Bernard Gann. They released their first album, Renihilation, in August.
Renihilation is a fortress, a towering, hypnotizing musical structure. The sonic assault is euphoric and addictive. The title of the album and the concept behind it were inspired by Martin Hiedegger’s writing on Nietzsche: “His idea of Nietzsche is basically that modernity is nihilism and the escape from it is an annihilation of nihilism,” explains Hunt-Hendrix. “It’s dissolving the final core of bitterness that is God’s shadow after the death of God.”
Liturgy’s combination of metal and philosophy might sound unusual, but to Hunt-Hendrix, they are comparable enterprises. “You get into philosophy and black metal for similar reasons,” Hunt-Hendrix says. “It’s a way of doing something really interesting but also escaping everyday life. So in a way black metal and philosophy are the exact same thing.” He pauses, and laughs. “Except, even though the culture of black metal lionizes isolation and the individual, there usually is a scene. Whereas in philosophy, you really are by yourself.”
Liturgy performs tonight at Fontana’s at 8 PM. Fontana’s is located at 205 Eldridge Street in Manhattan.