I do believe I smell a scene a-brewin’. Well, okay, a potential scene. New York City, never known as the capital of US black metal, made a splash last year when Krallice put out their monster of a debut album. Far different than what is commonly stamped USBM, they tapped into the intangible spirit of American independent music. Now along comes Renihilation, full length from Brooklyn’s Liturgy. They share their cross-town friends’ connection to the American underground, but instead of clearly-produced progressive technicality, Liturgy opts for raw, (mostly) controlled chaos while somehow maintaining a certain amount of class and majesty in their songs, which show mountains of potential but ultimately result in a mixed bag.
Liturgy’s controlled chaos isn’t caused by the vocals, which are typically buried as per the USBM formula, or by the riffs, which likewise follow a tried-and-true method, balancing speedster chug and tremolo picking. No, the nutso-facto herein is brought on by the mindbendingly ridiculous drumwork of Greg Fox, whose snare-happy style is what most conjures thoughts of the non-metal American underground. The battery dominates the album, changing between multiple styles over the course of an individual song section, while the guitars will often maintain a constant melody or rhythm. As for said guitars, some of the high end harmonies resemble their friends Krallice, while others seem straight out of Bergen, such as the main riff in the excellent album-ending title track. At times, Liturgy seem to understand how to organize their whirlwind insanity into a great song, a skill best exemplified by “Arctica,” where they deftly mix sections in which the guitars and drums each take control, following the lead of the others until the song comes to a rather captivating climax. At other times the chaos gets the best of them (the entirety of “Mysterium” seems like a song outro), but for the most part, the real songs on Renihilation (read on…) quench the black metal thirst.
That brings us here, and here is where the nice stops kids. Renihilation is plagued by two serious problems. First, there simply isn’t enough quality to make up for the lack of quantity. The album only contains seven actual songs, all between three and six minutes in length. The other four tracks are one-to-two-minute intros/interludes which serve only to provide a ceasefire between the main songs, as they do nothing to musically connect the album or interest the listener.
Other major fault: the production. As opposed to typical USBM or “true” Norwegian fashion, the rawness employed by Liturgy does nothing to create atmosphere or mood. Instead, it further muddles the already intense bludgeoning that the listener is attempting to process. Clarity (which in no way implies polish) would suit these songs far better than the current approach. Doubling the shame is that all of the instrumental tones sound great at their source, but struggle to come through when all elements are going full bore.
In the end, Renihilation contains some pretty killer tracks that should please those yearning for something resembling a more chaotic, far less prog version of Krallice, as long as they’re willing to sift through the filler. If New York really does birth out a black metal scene befitting of the greater American underground, Liturgy should fit right in. But unless they figure out how to trim the fat and appropriately produce their obvious talent, they’ll have to get used to the opening slot on those big hometown shows.