An interview with controversial local black-metal crew Liturgy, reuniting this week

Photograph: Jason Nocito
Liturgy (from left: Greg Fox, Bernard Gann, Tyler Dusenbury, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix)

Like hip-hop fans, metalheads love nothing more than a good authenticity scandal. Aspiring young artists in either genre have a high bar to clear: Never mind the music, are they "real" enough to hang? Along these lines, few NYC bands in recent memory have incited as much debate as Liturgy, which plays a reunion show this Saturday, August 23, at Pioneer Works in Red Hook. TONY contributor Brad Cohan spoke with bandleader Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and drummer Greg Fox to get the full scoop on their renewed partnership.

A black-metal band fronted by philosophy-spouting Columbia grad Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy sent gatekeeper types into a tizzy a few years back with a radical new take on the subgenre—informed as much by post-hardcore and shoegaze as by more traditional corpse-painted touchstones such as Mayhem and Darkthrone—complete with a high-minded, academia-ready manifesto. Critics raved, but some folks just couldn't stomach the idea that a dude who had palled around with the members of Vampire Weekend (a topic Hunt-Hendrix addressed in a 2011 TONY chat) was fit to work in such a traditionally grim, insular medium.

Back story aside, the music spoke for itself. Liturgy releases such as 2011's Aesthethica still sound radical and ecstatically intense, embodying black metal's essential feral abandon while upping both its complexity and sheer rapturous beauty. The lineup responsible for that record—including avant-rock drum ace Greg Fox, also of Zs and Guardian Alien, who took some time last year to tell TONY about his studies with free-jazz percussion giant Milford Graves—split just months after Aesthethica's release, but lucky for us New Yorkers, the quartet is back in action for this week's show and an upcoming album. As before, the debates will rage, but not louder than the 2014-model Liturgy.

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