This started off as just a review of the Liturgy show I went to last week but giving a little more thought to the experience as a whole, it raised a few questions I feel need to explored.
Lets go ahead and get the elephant out of the room , which is the dreaded " hipster " tag and the controversy , Hunter Hendrix riled with his manifesto. The two issues go hand in hand because , if Hunter never opened his mouth in a manner that might be construed as suggesting this band is too elitist to be thought of in the same way as Norwegian black metal, then he would not have a-drawn attention to him self , which happens to be in the territory of self promotion a major key to being an artist independent or otherwise and b-fallen into separating himself from metal. It's pretty clear listening to the "Reannihilation" album, these guys have given Burzum more than a few spins and it's fair to say Darkthrone has made their playlist as well. Liturgy wears the shadows of the influences but brings influence from bands like Swans, Lightning Bolt, and Sun Ra to the table, so even at the risk of delving into noise they aren't looking to play it safe. So what I took away from all of his rambling , is they aren't looking to ape a style that has been done and want to do their own thing, now unless you have a small mind that is unable to progress beyond "Blessed are the Sick" then I don't see what's the problem with that.
Liturgy's 2011 release ”Aesthethica” remains one of my favorite albums of the year so the bar set high for them with a year of anticipation built around seeing the band live. Less than thirty minutes at the Masquerade I was informed Liturgy’s bassist and drummer had dropped off the tour and they would be preforming with a drum machine. With this in mind the fact the show had been moved into the Purgatory stage, made a little more sense as would the crowd of under fifty people.
Ok, lets get clear on this it made sense that it was moved to Purgatory due to low turn out ...what doesn't make sense is the low turn out. To get labelled as a hipster band I saw three or four people I would qualify with that label. So you are going to tell me all the metal heads who are into forward thinking metal where at the nostalgia fest that was Anthrax and Testament? If I think back to the Agalloch show, it was well attended and a different demographic than the Testament crowd, but more straight forward in their approach than Liturgy who is huge in New York. So does this mean experimental and metal only work in new york? Or more likely is Atlanta behind the curve when it comes to where metal is going.
It was a fact the creative clock is turned back the further outside of 285 you are proven once again by Tifton, Ga’s When Pain is King, who opened the show with a brand of Myspace metal I remember being much more adventurous in say 2004. I'm sure they killed it in the cafeteria at the Tifton high talent show, but Atreyu's days are dead and gone a fact even Atreyu is in acceptance of.
One of Atlanta's better bands Scarab followed them. While their blend of rocked out math-rock was more appropriate, I wouldn't say they are metal.The hints of blast beats recalled something more akin to Estradasphere in the days when they band dipped into the occasional metal outburst or falling closer to an instrumental version of the whole rock against rock movement that came out of California spear headed the Secret cheifs 3 and Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum with winding deviations in song structure complimented by remarkable use of creatively employed chops. I think given the circumstances Scarab stole the show and as a band whose rhythm section dominated the songs to a band lacking one would proved a jarring transition.
So why were Tifton's finest on the bill when a black metal-ish band would have made more sense, though now i think of it Überchriist, is the only one of those that comes to mind and a very tongue in cheek in their approach. So does this mean to only expect retro thrash and sludge once word gets back to New York don't waste your time going through atlanta on tour, and the message boards lament when Atlanta is passed up for city's like Mobile,
Liturgy’s main man Hunter Hendrix went about this gig if it were business as usual, more daunted by the meager crowd than the logistics at hand Hunter Hendrix was business as usual, though more than likely reminding him self to tell Krallice to skip atlanta once he ran into Mick Barr. He spoke only to announce themselves and their last song. He stood alongside guitarist Bernard Gann and let the quality if this bands music I find most compelling take center stage ...their guitar tone.
Rather than rely on the murky tremolo picked distortion their create a sonic clamor . their guitars ring like a cacophony of bells. The closest comparison in their sound would be found in their admitted influence of the Swans. To have such a unique guitar sound, i expected to see them encircled by pedal boards, this was not the case as became evident they create this using only the blur at the end of their wrists.
The impressive display of guitar playing aside , no attempt to replicate drum sounds. The lap top lurching behind Hunter only followed the albums patterns, spit out lo-fi drum sounds, that often blipped into a squeal. I am all for experimentation, but they are not Godflesh so it lacked lacked the power the album conveyed .The two guitarist played their parts spot in, with the only other deviation in the a capella sections of the looped clean vocal chants to lead into the sets opener and closer. Hendrix’s raw black metal shreikage was by his request buried in the mix .Later in their set he even asked not to hear themselves in the monitors.
Bernard Gann told me after the show that he found playing with something as rigid as the programed drums to be freeing. I hope this was not a cryptic hint at what to expect from the duo in the future. The pound of the angular rhythm section accented the horrid beauty they crafted so well on last year’s release. I admire them for working against adversity, and saw this as an intimate guitar clinic, while enjoyable as a once in a lifetime performance of circumstance I hope to see the band ... though in a different, return to form they deserve and when a band like Ulcerate skips Atlanta just remember word travels fast in New York.