Liturgy – Aesthetica

I really want to cut these guys some slack. They’re from Brooklyn. They’re all about genre-smashing into some territory between metal and art-rock (they invest lots of focus and energy into the harmonic phenomena beloved of bands like Sonic Youth). They seem to dig some totally fab influences, from stoner doom to minimalism, positioning themselves in the same awesome abyss as the exalted Sunn O))) – or in an eternal pit of hellfire someplace adjacent.

Well, maybe not so much. My excitement over this new album – my first exposure to the band – has not outlasted the record itself. The quartet has the spirit, no doubt, but they lack a strong original conception to carry them past an assortment of microwaved inspirations. The band’s default mode is a wall of amplified hard strumming that oscillates a lot like the massed guitars in a Rhys Chatham piece. Indeed, half of Aesthetica could be a warm-up exercise for playing A Crimson Grail – the 200-guitar symphony performed two summers ago at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Just add the “yarrrrgh” hollers of vocalist/guitarist Hunter Hunt Hendrix, which never vary in general intensity or yarrrghy-ness, and it’s like a zombie version of cranked-to-11 second wave minimalist roar. Except, it never goes anywhere as potentially interesting as that possibly sounds. Or, let’s say, Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, a record that employed similar thrashy aspects that also had the added value of pre-grunge teen angst lyrics. I can see the value of the group’s simple approach, and would guess that it’s a different ballgame in a shitty rock bar where the sheer rush of air pressure would provoke a physical response. On disc, at least, it feels unimaginative.

Which isn’t to say they haven’t got it in them. “Veins of God” is solid doom-metal that slings the sludge better than surprise anal sex. But these dudes don’t linger long in Brown Town. They really like more frantic tremelo action, fluttering up to the higher end of the sonic scale – like a thousand metal butterflies beating their tiny wings into an ecstatic hum. And then a zombie eats them.

[Thrill Jockey]