Liturgy’s first album would come in 2009, with Renihilation. This album paints a plain silky beige from where their career and art can expand and expound upon itself. One particular approach that is noticeable within this album, one particular failing, is how it confuses such self-explanation with the ever common trope of self-indulgence instead. Cosmic horror finds itself migrating to this album in its many ugly shadows, as if imitating the silhouette of a dozen trillion monarch butterflies. Where they arrive, however, is up to the songs.
The first untitled track opens the album with a polyphonic chant followed by a meditative drone. The chant continues piling in layers throughout its two-minute runtime, allowing the listener the privilege of becoming drenched within their own trance. As it grows just that little bit louder in the end, crashing and meteoric drums set the scene in Pagan Dawn, in which the avant-black metal (or “Transcendental Black Metal”, as the band would state in their manifesto shortly after this album’s inception) opens up its drone cocoon into a dance of disaster.
The respective guitars of Hunt-Hendrix and Gann find themselves in a more pleasant synergy from time to time, as the drums provide both the spine and the feet for which the album can move. The production blights are brought to a level where they become advantage points, as the bass of Dusenbury provide a seemingly unnoticeable but very needed balance. While the listener attempts to become lost within its brooding and growing persona, the track finds itself lost in its own indulgence, particularly with the drum performance. It concludes as if just another triviality.
Mysterium, however, opens up with a little more spectacle, as the guitars advance to pierce through the listener with noise, collaboration, and repetition akin to a Branca symphony, further revealing the influences of countless noise-rock bacchanals that preceded this album. It constructs a much more melancholy framework than the previous song as Hunt-Hendrix’s voice begins dissolving its ability to complement the song’s tone, more of a feral and angered deity rather than a shattered and coughed-out spirit, a subject to its own grandeur. Its edge remains retained, not necessarily stale and soft where it is rightfully raw, especially noted through how it ends. Such an ending is then succeeded by the second untitled track. It supplies a shorter dosage of ambience and chants right before the cataclysms of Ecstatic Rite snap the piece’s many growing necks.
The repetitive methodology of the guitars, for a second, begin to exude more transparency than usual as a result of a newfound insufficiency in substance and production ability. After a rather ineffective break from them complete with a disappointing vocal rite, they return in a more adept and nigh-aerodynamic crawl, a more conventionally metal approach. The pulse of dynamics in this album is fed new blood. Arctica, despite a more apparent melody, begins getting a bit lost in itself and throws a spanner in the works of the album’s hunt for a lack of transparency. Likely the saviour of the song is the drums, although being too loose for its own good within the first quarter. The song, and the album in general, persists in coughing out its own organs until their surreal and ever more grisly shimmer is present for the viewer’s morbid curiosity.
The third untitled track is not a chant and drone, but rather two guitars simply sitting in rumination and engaging in a different genre of meditation, much more of a prog-metal voyage than black metal, a more deeply rooted post-minimalism making itself home. This lasts for less than two minutes before Beyond the Magic Forest, which conforms to the trend of a devastating asteroid impact of metal crashing down onto the earth from which these untitled passages have been constructed.
This track then breaks from such a routine as it then lets the drums have a lunch break in order for the remaining instruments to spawn even more atmosphere and tension, akin to the glint in a character’s eyes revealing exposition where there used to be a hectic set piece. It then crashes in on itself in a properly asinine fashion before the fourth untitled track spawns from this exhausted oblivion. The chants return as the drone picks up a harsher and more inaccessible tone. This particular piece, humorously, is the most avant-garde episode within the album, more impactful of an experiment than the psychologically arresting black metal that tends to complement such rites. Speaking of which…
Behind the Void makes a name for itself, appearing from the cloud and smoke as if in the fashion of an incomprehensible entity the likes of which human eyes were never prepared to see. This track does not do anything especially new, rather it bluntly takes the formula for which most of the metal in this album has been derived from and further optimizes it into the best shape it can be. The rest of the song past the two-minute mark, however, is trivial.
As it dies out in a guised metaphysical whimper, the scene it sets for the title track Renihilation is just as ineffective. Hunt-Hendrix’s voice does not add all that much to talk about, and the main melody is equally uninteresting. The drums perform with the power of a kitten’s sneeze in comparison to the rest of the songs, and the bass continues to remain vanished not in the vein of a puppet-master, but more or less as a sidenote. The picture painted within this song does not add much either, rather looking like the leg of a stool where the rest of the songs brood over the listener and take after the shapes of regolithic skyscrapers. The album ends with this song, and this song ends with an abrupt nothingness, both in sound and in substance.
Renihilation as an album and as a song is laminated with issues, existing from its insufficiency of substance to warrant so many songs having a similar approach and resolution, such songs needing to be broken up by the untitled tracks (startlingly the most interesting cuts off of the record) in order to remain as fresh as it can try becoming, and the most obvious tidbit: how – like the black hole, reality’s most tried and true and terrifying cosmic horror with its infinite density, the album collapses in on itself into such an infinity out of its self-indulgence.
In the eyes of the metalhead, a tilted head. In the eyes of the pretentious poet, awe. In the eyes of Cthulu, disappointment. But in the eyes of those intrigued, it is hopefully a work to be eclipsed.
Trajectory of listens past the first: negative.
Written 2/4/2023, 9:04 - 10:01 PM.