Liturgy's '93696' Burns with Fury and Ecstasy

BY Kyle KohnerPublished Mar 23, 2023

Every artistic decision and mark of evolution that Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix has made under the umbrella of Liturgy has been in service of her quest to know God through her complex theological belief system, operating in pursuit of an earthly utopia she calls "Haelegen." She's been consumed by it and she's consumed it, moulding it to her whim as if truly preordained by God himself. 

This journey sounds like a guttural scream reaching for the heavens, a children's choir grasping for the same, or a power chord meticulously played with apocalyptic implications. Hunt-Hendrix's art, and Liturgy's latest album in particular, bursts with a profound feeling of revelation, inspirational totality, and the necessity to glorify. But her glorification is hardly spoken; it's felt and then conveyed.

On 93696, Hunt-Hendrix is an imagist. Like most brilliant artistic minds, she shows us her journey toward enlightenment but never once tells us about it — and maybe that's for the best. If you've ever indulged in the Liturgy frontwoman's elaborate Godhead theology, you've probably come away dizzied in an existential mess. Thankfully, 93696 acts as a mere vehicle to support, rather than reflect, the intricate mechanisms that are ceaselessly constructing, collapsing, and reconstructing inside her mind. Everything about 93696 is from the heart — seldom from the head.

This isn't to say 93696 is depthless. It's simply not the ecclesiastical mindfuck that was the theologically-intricate opera of Origin of The Alimonies or even the foundation-laying H.A.Q.Q, which saw her theology in its infancy stages. This new record, however, overwhelms and bursts in revelation in its own way, this time through the sheer spirit that stirs inside Hunt-Hendrix, conveyed in cataclysmic expressions. Her music and beliefs have always been integral to the multi-pronged mass that is Liturgy, but with her thirst for knowing God continuing to intensify and bloom, her music has become less of a mode of academic exercise and more of a medley of tone and unrestrained catharsis — a dance between shock and tenderness to convey the complexities that run wild within her soul. This time, it doesn't take a Christian, let alone a studying theologian, to fathom or feel what inspires Liturgy.

In the context of the Scriptures, the word "inspiration" means "God-breathed." If the word was indeed inspired by God, then so are the primal screams and poetic fragments that barrel from the stirring depths of Hunt-Hendrix. Singing "Pulling up to the curb / Rapier in my hair / Honey and lavender / Endocrines and vetiver" or "Dragons broke into my eyes / And stole my teeth" hardly mean anything on the surface, and arguably, neither does it mean much in the abstract. But the manner in which these phrases and vivid fragments are unleashed, paired with the plundering sonics of her classical black metal, Hunt-Hendrix seems persuaded by the good use of the flood, a force the Lord himself promised never to levy again, to eviscerate everything in her path. 

The destruction wreaked throughout 93696 is not of malice or ill-intent; the album is an act of destruction made necessary so that light may have room to cast itself upon the very anatomy of Liturgy's art: God, cosmic love, the feminine, and personal and spiritual metamorphosis. It's a display of Liturgy shedding new skin, a typically unsightly visual rendered utterly beautiful amidst its rapturous musical calamity. At over an hour and 20 minutes long, Liturgy's latest is a sprawling beast touched by the God Hunt-Hendrix worships with such intense heed. And while it is an elongated monstrosity, it doesn't overstay its welcome as each moment feels like nothing you've ever heard but like everything at once. Vibraphones, organs, trombones, and yes, trap hi-hats — Liturgy has composed a celestial ensemble that speaks a language unfamiliar and foreign to many listeners who will approach this record. However, the combination and seismic results are so awe-inspiring that it often feels as though God himself descended upon the earth with trumpets to signal a simultaneous end and beginning.

From the get-go, the record leads with a gorgeous assuage of Hendrix's voice in a simple clerical chant before glitching out and giving into the rhythmically complex "Djenneration," which is instantly detonated by the "burst" beat brilliance of drummer Leo Didkovsky and scorched-earth cries of Hunt-Hendrix, aptly unloading, "The quivers screeching in the air." The band's crushing ways continue into the next track "Caela," but only momentarily as the ascending "Angel of Sovereignty'' follows suit to break necks with elegiac misdirection, reminding that though God is a god of wrath, he leads with love and grace. 

This dynamic dance between light and dark is constant throughout the record, and not once will listeners find themselves uninterested. Truly, 93696 is an ongoing, turbulent act of engagement — its surging power will throttle you, blow you over with fury and ecstasy. But it will also pull you in for an embrace, to quell and allow for the chance to breathe and reflect. 

93696 is an ethos. It is catharsis and full of unpronounceable spirit that makes Liturgy a unique and constantly innovative band. Regardless of your faith, you will feel the totality of what it is that drives this record, band, and Hunt-Hendrix in particular — it's an undeniable force.
(Thrill Jockey)

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