Liturgy’s Transcendental Black Metal

If hell has a jukebox, it plays black metal. Taken as a whole, the genre’s anti-Christian, pro-Satan polemic — with distorted guitars, bursts of drumming, and vocals that resemble the howling of a tormented beast — are custom-made for a picnic at the lake of fire. Not to be confused with death, thrash, speed, groove, stoner, industrial, traditional, power, doom, metal core, or goth metal, black metal is a disturbing underground subgenre.

A lot of it, oddly enough, comes from Norway, where in the 1990s fans of Norse black metal took to setting neighborhood churches on fire. The band Venom gets the credit for inventing black metal, but they only gave it a name. In truth, all roads lead back to Black Sabbath, first among heavy-metal bands to claim unholy alliance with the dark angel and take it to the bank (Led Zeppelin only dabbled in Satanism).

Metal has come a long way since the 1960s. In comparison to today’s bands, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden sound downright wholesome. So where do four nice boys from Brooklyn calling themselves Liturgy fit in? At the head of the black-metal line, it turns out.

Liturgy began as the solo project of singer/guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. By 2008, it had become a four-piece with a 12-inch called Immortal Life, a sampler of what would be on their debut CD Renihilation. Their second disc, Aesthethica, was released in May. Liturgy took heat when they began calling themselves transcendental black metal, enough so that Hunt-Hendrix was moved to publish an essay in which he said the first stage of the genre is to establish rules, and the second is auto-destruction, whereby “the initial rules, having been fully digested and satisfied, are thereby mutilated.” This brings me to my main issue with the different species of modern-day heavy metal. Technical skills aside, I don’t know whether to take any of them seriously.

Chelsea Wolfe and the Long and Short of It also perform.

LITURGY: The Casbah, Monday, July 25, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $8.

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