For a genre founded on the tenets of rebellion and individuality we metal fans sure are a fickle bunch. Freedom of expression is what it’s all about, but those who don’t conform to what “we” believe metal in whatever form (black/death/what have you) should be are ostracized and ridiculed (or hated).
Making music is about expressing oneself. It’s about taking what’s inside and externalizing it. If you’re making music solely for money or to “be cool” you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. So if you don’t like some music, fuck off then and go listen to one of the million other bands that might make your balls tingle. If you do like it, great! Who cares what others think!?
That was the mentality with which I ventured into Thrill Jockey‘s reissue of the controversial Liturgy‘s Renihilation. I’d heard more shit-talking about the band than notes they’ve played, so I pushed that aside and silenced any preconceived notions of what the band was about. I won’t say anything disparaging about Hunter Hunt-Hendrix or his reunited Renihilation lineup, but I also don’t have much to give in the way of praise for this reissue either.
For what has been branded Transcendental Black Metal I don’t hear much in the way of transcendence. For the most part Renihilation bounces back and forth between pure annihilative noise and droning “Untitled” chants. Perhaps if the chants were longer and had more intonation some level of bliss or ascendance would occur but that’s not the case.
When Liturgy are in “full-on” mode their raucous, relentless speed comes across as unnecessarily caustic. At times it borders on irritating as they continue to blur the definition of notes while buried screams, lacking any kind of annunciation, carry on about who knows what. Kudos for keeping their arms attached though.
“Ecstatic Rite” does work in some bare-knuckle downstrokes of chugging menace. On later tracks increased melody fights to be heard amidst the deafening din but it’s an unfair match-up. Also, “Untitled 3” is actually some tasteful, progressive-leaning guitar work that needs to be incorporated into every other song to give the otherwise monochromatic aesthetic some much needed colour.
Renihilation teeters on the edge of collapse much of the time. It’s a torturous cacophony that simply barrels through the barriers they are trying to break through without much nuance or effectiveness at getting their message across. I’m all for bands that pour every conceivable ounce of energy they have into their instruments but in this case it feels flat and disingenuous. Perhaps Liturgy’s other works are more endearing to my sensibilities, but there’s nothing on Renihilation that inspires the urge to seek any further.
. . . But that’s just my two cents.