Since Liturgy’s inception 18 years ago, Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix has always approached things differently.
With bands like Liturgy, there really is no grey area: you’re either in or out, and this was underline after the release 2015’s The Ark Work – an ambitious affair, cross-pollinating previously unaligned sound worlds. Despite the bold aspirations, opinion was divided.
While Hunt-Hendrix continued to explore these orbits throughout The Ark Work’s follow-up, H.A.Q.Q., and 2020’s Origin of the Alimonies – both tethered to other art forms (a YouTube lecture series in the case of H.A.Q.Q.; a film created by Hunt-Hendrix in conjunction with Origin of the Alimonies) – alongside guitarist Mario Miron, bassist Tia Vincent-Clark, and drummer Leo Didkovsky, she returns with her finest Liturgy release yet in 93696.
A numerological depiction of heaven, with the number deriving from the religions of Christianity and Thelema, 93696 is a multi-layered, ecclesiastical offering of symphonic rage.
Ahead of its release, Hunt-Hendrix explained that 93696 is divided by the four “laws” that govern her own interpretation of heaven, “Haelegen”: Sovereignty, Hierarchy, Emancipation, and Individuation. Through the softly textured and meticulously composed cuts such as Angel of Hierarchy and Angel of Emancipation, these are two of the three movements which lend themselves to the above concept, acting as interludes between the four laws.
Some may see it as exhibitionism, but Liturgy comes from a far darker corner of the world than to engage in pomp and bombast. On 93696, Hunt-Hendrix revels in the underbelly of punk, attaining what she has set out to deliver since the project’s outset. Everything completely lines up on 93696, with brutal surges of noise-rock counterbalanced with old world arrangements and rich, hymnal passages that morph into an operatic blast of proto-metal.
On opening piece, Daily Bread, Hunt-Hendrix summons her brethren, but not within the walls of any place of worship. This is strictly outer-church, and with Djennaration the first salvo of fireworks litter the skies in this extreme blend of ideas and sound. Piercing flute, morbid waves of guitar and frenetic blast beats, all of which spark the senses.
From this moment, the hooks are well and truly in, and on Caela the rustic strings are drowned out by machine-gun tremolo in what is some bizarre form of orchestral hyper metal. It’s almost too much to bear, until the introduction of a children’s choir during Angel of Sovereignty and later with Angel of Individuation; both examples of the feminine embers almost unheard of in the black metal pantheon. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition, and here Hunt-Hendrix has orchestrated it with precision.
Didkovsky’s blast beats are key to the album, and alongside Miron’s metallic thrum during the machete-sharp Haelefgen II, the song culminates in the kind of symphonic drama likened to the heavens opening up.
While the anabolic-infused Ananon delivers the chaos in shorter bursts, 93696’s hallmark moments arrive in the longer form. Exceeding over 14 minutes, the title track is a dirge-laden punk-assault reminiscent of the rip and tear of Refused. But of course, Liturgy add their own embellishments of glockenspiel and piano, which almost turn of the idea of punk on its head.
Antigone II not only rivals it – it’s 93696’s shining beacon, illuminating the drama with heaving noise, epic build-ups, and enthralling cadence that explodes like a stick of dynamite, as Liturgy pull us through the blast zones from one world to another with their sweltering take on metal.
Closing in at just under the hour-and-a-half mark, while there is a lot to dissect and digest with 93696, it’s clear that the sound waves haven’t hit as harder on any other Liturgy release. This is a punk-inspired noise opera rumbling from the abyss, and those who choose to ignore 93696 based on past releases, well, more fool you.
93696 is out via Thrill Jockey. Purchase from Bandcamp.