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Liturgy - Electrowerkz, London - June 11 2015 (Live Review)

Friday, 19 June 2015 Written by Ben Bland

When you set yourself up as a “transcendental black metal” band, you have to be pretty confident in your live show. Black metal, despite the visceral thrill that comes with listening to many of its greatest practitioners on record, can often be ponderous and dull on stage. Corpse paint does not necessarily equate to stage presence.

None of that should be a problem for Liturgy, of course. The New York quartet, and particularly their leader Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, are firmly set apart from almost all the genre’s conventions. Corpse paint is definitely not a part of their wardrobe.

This perhaps explains why it feels perfectly normal to find the band playing at Electrowerkz rather than the Underworld or one of London’s more regular metal haunts. The venue is more closely associated with London’s subterranean web of industrial music – it used to be a metal works before being transformed (loosely) into a club venue – than with heavy guitars.

This very much fits with Liturgy, whose latest album, ‘The Ark Work’, sees them abandon much of the more obviously metallic elements of previous efforts, ‘Renihilation’ and ‘Aesthetica’. In their place there are a range of electronic tones, largely originating from the world of MIDI.

Circuit des Yeux makes a compelling support act. The solo project of Indiana native Haley Fohr, a 35 minute set (performed exclusively on 12-string acoustic guitar, albeit with pedals) encompasses a range of sounds from Burzum-esque flights of fury to Current 93-referencing medieval neofolk.

With her face largely hidden behind her hair, and her thoughts shrouded by her distinctive, and powerful, vocals, Fohr proves deeply engaging despite appearing cocooned completely in a world some way apart from that of her audience.

When Liturgy begin, it’s obvious that their set will be similar. Not least because, much like many of black metal’s most famous names, Liturgy have, with the exception of drummer Greg Fox, a distinct absence of stage presence. In this instance, though, that is acceptable because – in line with their detachment from convention – a Liturgy performance is clearly not meant to be a show in any traditional sense of the word.

Instead it’s meant to enhance the varied artistic qualities of the band’s music, which on record balances searing emotion with deceptively ambitious reconstructions of black metal’s sonic aesthetic. In the case of many tracks, such as Pagan Dawn, Father Vorizen or Quetzalcoatl, this is achieved purposefully, but sometimes it isn’t completely successful.

This is in part due to Hunt-Hendrix’s newly adopted clean vocal style, which occasionally gets completely washed away amid the barrage of sound at the heart of the band. Then there are times when the recorded potency of a track simply doesn’t match up live, particularly in the case of Reign Away, which noticeably fails to live up to its studio intensity.  

These moments are very much exceptions, though. When Liturgy are at their best – for instance in a storming closing performance of Generation - they are truly… what’s the word I’m looking for? Ah, yes. Transcendental.

Liturgy Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Monday October 26 2015 – DUBLIN Whelans
Tuesday October 27 2015 – MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
Wednesday October 28 2015 – GLASGOW Broadcast
Thursday October 29 2015 – LEEDS Brudenell Social Club

Click here to compare & buy Liturgy Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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