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Liturgy are the first black metal band that truly embodies the ghosts of New York. They play metal like it’s a minimalist downtown art/life/religion project in the tradition of dronemasters Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham and La Monte Young’s Dream Syndicate. Through their own brand of growling, gnarling, lightning-fast black grind, Liturgy try to find euphoria through dissonance, repetition and volume–turning metal nightmares into something ready for the Dream House. Their debut album for metal label 20 Buck Spin, Renihilation, is due in August. The first leaked track, “Ecstatic Rite” couldn’t be more aptly named–four minutes and 44 seconds of churning blast that aims for the heavens and stretches out when it gets there.
What’s this song about?
“Ecstatic Rite” relates to the status of transcendental experience in the contemporary world, as shaped by the dialectic between advanced capitalism and the counterculture. The lyrics will be published in a booklet that goes with the vinyl release: The most important line goes, “Ecstatic rite/Divide the father.”
What do you picture an “ecstatic rite” would look like?
I think of the figure of Dionysus in Nietzsche’s writing: A group experience where individual egos and aims give way to a primordial collective joy. I just saw this great documentary by Dan Graham called Rock My Religion. His thesis is that punk is part of an American tradition of ecstatic communal activity that began with the Shakers. The basic thought behind Liturgy is that black metal is ripe to be inflected so as to contribute to that tradition.
You guys have ties to the Baltimore scene. Is the title like the metal version of the band Ecstatic Sunshine?
You guys hit the stage in street clothes that aren’t even particularly “metal.” Was this a conscious decision or something you just fell into?
Both. We certainly make no effort to seem “grim” or whatever, since that’s not what we’re about. Though I guess it isn’t so out of the ordinary for an American black metal band to go casual. Anyway, I have a Bathory shirt I wear on stage sometimes…
What was the last transcendent experience you’ve had?
I’m still waiting on my satori.
What’s been your favorite show you’ve ever played in New York?
We performed in a synthetic forest made out of discarded Christmas trees that my friend Morgan collected from the street and set up in our basement in Bushwick. Worst fire hazard and best show ever. Actually this is also the answer to the previous question.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 28, 2009