Scattered Like Landmines
CoC sits down with Hunter Hendrix from Liturgy
by: Johnathan A. Carbon
Brooklyn based Liturgy has recently made noise within the metal landscape with an angular and philosophical approach to black metal. Their work has been met with some praise, as well as strong detraction from purists and traditionalists. Hunter Hendrix sits down with Chronicles of Chaos and calmly explains some of the finer points related to Liturgy's music. The result is a window into the motivations and rationale behind a band with more mud to its name than most. Liturgy soon turns out to be less "hipster black metal" and more a band sent to destroy black metal -- something everyone joked about but never took seriously.

CoC: There is no real easy way to begin, so let me ask this first: "Transcendental Black Metal" was written by Hunter Hunt Hendrix. In the manifesto, it details the history of second wave black metal as a backdrop to a proposed new movement of forward thinking American black metal bands. What was the inception for this work? Was Liturgy a manifestation of a philosophical and intellectual approach to black metal?

Hunter Hendrix: I think that the Anglo-American counterculture -- born in the '50s and '60s with the Beat Generation, and then the Beatles and Hendrix and the hippies, drugs, free love, Vietnam, all this -- is totally dead. There is still a music tradition that stems from it, but it is totally cynical, totally personal, it doesn't mean anything with regard to the political or the spiritual; there is no upheaval we are working towards. I think black metal could be a way to reanimate that tradition, to give it a kind of electric shock therapy. But black metal would be transformed in the process. But then the black metal tradition itself is dead too, it signifies the death of the extreme metal tradition, so it is available as a material for a new form. These kinds of ideas have always been part of the urge to make this music. Maybe it sounds absurdly ambitious or philosophical, but I think that's only because people these days are so hostile towards ambition and thought.

CoC: Did this work help shape the new record _Aesthethica_?

HH: Yes, the manifesto ends with a series of theses proposing a new kind of art called Aesthethics, and the record _Aesthethica_ is a foray into putting those ideas into practice. Aesthethics amounts to an affirmation of the inherent bond between the Good and the Beautiful, the assertion that something like music has genuine moral power.

CoC: In "Transcendental Black Metal", death and thrash metal are positioned near the haptic void (flood of sound), ultimately left in the wake along with hyperborean (second wave) while transcendental black metal traverses the void. What about doom, power and heavy metal? Are they so far off the chart we can't see them?

HH: Yeah, they're so far off the chart that we can't see them. I think metal becomes extreme when you can no longer really dance to it with like your shoulders and hips. When the pulsations get so fast and/or irregular that you can only use your neck and your fists to vibrate with it. Doom metal is a little more difficult to really fit into the classification, because it is also "unnatural" as in undanceable, but it goes in the opposite direction, in the direction of slowness. Earth and Sunn O)) reached a threshold within doom metal, where there are no longer any beats, and there is a transubstantiation with regard to the music. Instead of riffs, we hear the spectral play within the notes themselves. In a way, I imagine Liturgy doing with speed what Earth did for slowness. Those bands are models, though there is something opposite about it, obviously.

CoC: Can you talk about _Aesthethica_ and how it fits in the whole of Liturgy's evolution?

HH: _Aesthethica_ is the first really complete Liturgy record, in my view. The first time we were really able to spend time and make something adequate to the urge. I'm really unsatisfied with how it sounds in a lot of ways, but I recognize that it's a pretty complete statement nevertheless.

CoC: Was there any book, writer, artistic movement in history which you can pinpoint as an intellectual influence?

HH: Deleuze is a major influence. His concept of creation is so vivid and beautiful, in a way Liturgy is an effort to instantiate it, to be what he says the world is.

CoC: _Aesthethica_'s artwork seems to be paying tribute to the alternate cover for Slayer's 2001 _God Hates Us All_. Is Slayer an influence among the band, or is there more of an attraction to minimal artwork?

HH: It's more of an attraction to minimal artwork. And Moor pointed out to me that the _Renihilation_ logo looks just like the logo for the Ex. That wasn't intentional. I think there have just been so many records and logos made at this point that it's hard not to resemble other things.

CoC: Liturgy's music has been heavily criticized as a non-authentic upstart sent to decimate the integrity of true black metal. There have also been claims that Liturgy is another "hipster black metal" band. What are your reactions to this criticism?

HH: I kind of like the idea of being "sent to decimate the integrity of true black metal". It's correct that we're not true black metal, and there is a lot about black metal that I hate and think ought to be decimated, and certain potentials within black metal that I love and want to amplify. Everyone knows true black metal is dead; it's just a question of how make use of the remains, how to resurrect it on a different basis.

CoC: Are you familiar with Wassily Kaninsky's "Concerning the Spiritual in Art", where society is part of a symbolic triangle and it is the task of artists and thinkers at the top to bring the bottom half closer to a progressive realization? The metaphor also indicates a certain awareness of the top portion that the bottom half has still to understand. Do you feel that this imagery fits either your music or any other in history? Are there bands that have to travel through years and decades before reaching appreciation?

HH: Ha, yes, I'm very familiar with that book and love it. I don't really believe in his triangle, though. It's a little too modernist, too elitist also. I don't think there is a single group of true artists who see reality clearly and that they are sort of dragging the mass of mankind along with them, that the ideas trickle down eventually. There just isn't that kind of linear progress. But I like his assertion, which is almost implicit, that what the artist (or musician) sees has political, moral and spiritual power -- that it isn't just beauty, or entertainment, or irresponsibility or what have you. But I think these truths that artists see are scattered everywhere like landmines.

CoC: Does Liturgy strive for appreciation? How do you balance the intellectual pursuit with the very mechanical needs of playing in a band?

HH: Yes, we'd like to be appreciated. I mean, if we were as big as Tool or something that'd be awesome, I would not resist that at all. We are not trying to be esoteric or play only to a small elite of like-minded people in the know. I'd like to speak to the part of everyone that is universal. However, I don't think some kind of mega mainstream success is likely, and that's in part because of the collapse of the music industry. But then, if the music industry hadn't collapsed, I'd be more wary of mainstream success, because there was something so artificial about how it was possible to hold up like 25 bands for everyone to see and everything else be relegated to the underground. Now there's much more continuity between underground and mainstream, it's a matter of degree. In a way, I imagine our music is pretty accessible. It is very song-oriented and tuneful. I love getting reactions from people who have no idea what black metal is.

CoC: Are there any forward thinking contemporary metal bands outside the US which you are particularly fond of?

HH: Blut Aus Nord.

CoC: For Record Store Day you did a split with glitch pioneers Oval. Was this set up through Thrill Jockey or have you always been fond of Oval's work?

HH: I've been a fan of Oval for a long time, but the split was mediated by Thrill Jockey. I know Markus Popp likes black metal, but I don't even know if he likes Liturgy or not. Either way, it's an honor to share a record with him.

CoC: What are your plans for 2011?

HH: We have a US tour coming up in July, and a few festivals later in the year in Iceland, Poland, a few other new possibilities, but nothing to really announce yet.

(article submitted 6/26/2011)


ALBUMS
6/26/2011 J Carbon 7 Liturgy - Aesthethica
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