If you know Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s history, then it won’t be a surprise to know that Liturgy’s latest Liturgy album is an opera. Hunt-Hendrix’s past works include a dissertation on transcendental black metal, an experimental electronic metal album, and even a MIDI/chiptune/hip-hop album as Kel Valhaal. She is earnest in her ambition, however, and on new album Origin of the Alimonies, Hunt-Hendrix came strapped with an eight-piece chamber orchestra. Her take on classical music is more or less like you would imagine it would be: Very modern, in line with say composer John Adams and his “Transmigration of Souls.” Rather than the caterwaul of a counter tenor, the more familiar black metal elements do come crashing in. First single “Lonely OIOION” finds even more intent placed in their return to black metal, interspersed with the more symphonic elements.
While the symphonic side of this album is more prevalent than I might have anticipated going into this album, the more modern twist to it allows it to stray. “The Fall of SIHEYMN” is reminiscent of Sketches of Spain-era Miles Davis, with a piercing drone similar to that of a jarring horror movie score. It is dark, but not in an obvious manner, and didn’t really evolve in the way I would have hoped. The best song on the album is “Siheymn’s Lament,” which couples a jazz approach with a vocal snarl. Then comes the 14-minute “Apparition of the Eternal Church,” wherein the black metal doesn’t come blasting in until the three-minute mark, and the drone that started the song retains the undercurrent. Like most of their material, when they are firing on all cylinders it is pretty sonically intense, which is a prime reason why Liturgy is one of the most consistently interesting American black metal bands.
Origin of the Alimonies is a markedly different approach from Liturgy when compared to past albums such as Aesthethica and The Ark Work. Yet there is enough common ground with those albums here that it still feels connected to the broader body of work—not so distant that it’s alienating. Ultimately it seems like a successful take on what Hunter Hunt-Hendrix set out to accomplish, and in many ways it’s a return to their old black metal sound. (There are no chanted rap parts, for instance). It sums up what this band is about while adding a more expansive dimension in the more classical-inspired moments of the compositions. It’s a genuinely progressive piece of metal—give it a chance and it’ll take you somewhere new.