NPR logo Viking's Choice: Liturgy, 'Quetzalcoatl'

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Viking's Choice: Liturgy, 'Quetzalcoatl'

Liturgy. Erez Avissar/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Erez Avissar/Courtesy of the artist

Liturgy.

Erez Avissar/Courtesy of the artist

Monotonic chants, 8-bit four-on-the-floor, MIDI strings... Get your keyboards at the ready, Metal Internet: It's "Quetzalcoatl" from Liturgy's third album, The Ark Work.

Maybe the hints were there all along. After spending years as metal's whipping boy for reasons both ideological and aesthetic, the self-proclaimed "transcendental black metal" band from Brooklyn stripped down to a duo, added a drum machine, toured with not-so-metal bands like Sleigh Bells and Asobi Seksu, and was (weirdly) joined by Peter Fonda onstage in an episode of NBC's The Blacklist. Even as far back as 2012, primary songwriter Hunter Hunt-Hendrix was thinking about what's next for the band and the genre's recognition: "Insofar as it is a cultural turning point, it actually makes me less committed to black metal."

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But "Quetzalcoatl" is a good representation of where Liturgy stands in 2015: Hunt-Hendrix has ditched shrieks in favor of chants that channel, well, Orthodox liturgical singing. Bassist Tyler Dusenbury and drummer Greg Fox (Zs, Guardian Alien) have returned to the fold, but at times, The Ark Work feels like it was composed with a drum machine in mind; it's rigorous and detached, even as Fox thwacks "Quetzalcoatl" wide open with gunshot snares. Then there are the purposefully fake-sounding MIDI strings, which soar like the climax to The Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight," heightening Hunt-Hendrix's ecstatic guitar shred. It's anything but black metal, which just might be the point.

The Ark Work comes out in March on Thrill Jockey.

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