Liturgy don’t make themselves easy to parse. Their lore runs so deep that band mastermind Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s ongoing YouTube lectures detailing her philosophical System of Transcendental Qabala are not the only pieces of homework to become familiar with in order to understand the full scale of Origin of the Alimonies. One must grapple with Liturgy’s aesthetics, influenced by 19th-century new romanticism, musikdrama, kabbalah, German Idealism and a buffet of philosophies so beefy that the band has used a diagram explaining them as album art, while also considering Hunt-Hendrix’s recent gender identification as a woman—all before reckoning with their music, an obtuse mélange of IDM, classical, trap and post-rock into Scandinavian black metal that has been decried as too bastardized and too frenetic, depending on which sect of genre enthusiasts is speaking. There’s also the fact that Origin of the Alimonies is a concept album (or opera, a term that fits like it was tailor-made for the album) about a cosmic breakup so explosive it generates civilizations in its wake. Compounding on the last tidbit is the heavy collaboration of an eight-piece, classically trained avant-garde ensemble, integrating flutes, saxophone, trumpet, violin, harp, cello, viola and piano.

The product of this vast network is arguably some of the most original music of the past decade. Much of this owes to Liturgy’s intentionality. Every choice on the part of Hunt-Hendrix serves a surgically precise purpose. Every note, swell, break and fractured engineering trick that distorts the bubble of sound is punctilious in its intent. Origin of the Alimonies is as sharp as the contents of a five-star butcher’s drawer. The album is the purest realization of Hunt-Hendrix’s vision in the group’s discography. Through its bombasity, it capitalizes on the avant-garde ensemble, confirming Hunt-Hendrix’s compositional aptitude and reaffirming that Liturgy are the most interesting black metal band at the moment.

Liturgy’s songwriting here reflects Origin of the Alimonies’ narrative. Tracks are strung together to mimic a story arc. The band opts for peaks and valleys where their torrential black metal laps against long classical sections. Besides “SIHEYMN’S Lament” and “Apparition of the Eternal Church,” the ensemble holds the majority of the listening space. Their spotlight amplifies the magnitude of the album’s drama. Lead single “Lonely OIOION” gives the ensemble ample space to mount tension before Liturgy’s core members capitalize with a metallic onslaught. The organ of “OIOIOIN’s Birth” imbues gothic overtones through its crawling pace. Liturgy enter the free jazz territory on “The Fall of SIHEYMN,” the violence of the cacophonous guitars and squealing horns highlighting the turbulence of the narrative.

This is all spliced against and woven with Liturgy’s brand of avant-garde black metal, a brand that seeks to overload the senses with off-rhythm guitars, maximalist drumming, and Hunt-Hendrix’s carnal wail. Even Liturgy’s signature burst beat technique, an engineered fracturing of notes, melds flawlessly with the classical instruments. Each spastic outcry and forlorn stretch resembles a conversation between the opera’s lovers. The metal inhibitions are largely stowed in pockets on Origin of the Alimonies but “Apparition of the Eternal Church” holds 14 minutes of Liturgy’s transcendental black metal for those craving something more akin to their previous album H.A.Q.Q.. The optimization of the classical ensemble portrays the varied moods of Origin of the Alimonies’ tale, from the cosmic joy of divine love to the calamity of love lost.

The only offensive stain is the first 45 seconds of “SIHEYMN’s Lament.” Hunt-Hendrix has yet to grasp the fundamentals of trap music so her shallow integration of hi-hat drums and 808s rings amateurish. Her snarls over the elementary production beckon the long shadow of crunkcore. Thankfully the rest of the track is the gnarliest expression of metal on Origin of the Alimonies. The closing breakdown might be the heaviest moment on an album about a breakup so heavy it tears a wound into reality. The guitar is tuned so low it sounds like it’s digging its own grave while strings flare in horror.

There is no better branding for Origin of the Alimonies than operatic. It’s a titanic work that runs just under 40 minutes and is frightening in its originality. Its faults spring from its strength, a scope that occasionally fans too broad and exposes some sores. “Apparition of the Eternal Church” is stretched slightly thin and “The Armistice” is an unnecessary retread more than a satisfying epilogue. These are lesser sins in the face of a work this radical, and Liturgy deserve all the praise for realizing a vision this ambitious.

A titanic work that runs just under 40 minutes and is frightening in its originality
80 %
The Kingdom Hearts of Black Metal

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