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Liturgy are nothing if not uncompromising. Nearly a decade into a career constantly steeped in controversy, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s “transcendental black metal” project has just released its most confounding statement yet with March’s The Ark Work, and on June 21st at Allston’s Great Scott, the band was eager to barrel headlong into weird and unpredictable territory.

Four years removed from their breakout sophomore record Aesthethica, and with time spent touring as a duo with a drum machine in between, 2015 finds Liturgy reunited as a proper four-piece both in the studio and on stage. Hunt-Hendrix is once more joined by bassist Tyler Dusenbury, guitarist Bernard Gann and drummer Greg Fox, and the four lock in as a precision-machined unit. Whatever time they spent apart has done nothing to lessen their power as musicians, but at the same time, this is not that Liturgy from four years ago.

The Ark Work, with its glitched-out MIDI choruses of bells and horns, takes Hunt-Hendrix’s vision in a logic-defying direction even for a band that was pretty out-there to begin with. It also presents itself, almost defiantly so, as a creation of the studio that was meant to stay there. Naturally, it followed that the band decided to tackle nearly the entire LP in concert. Hunt-Hendrix routed his guitar through a digital foot controller to summon forth the walls of instruments that characterize these new songs, melding the record’s Macbook sheen with the flesh-and-blood physicality of its tremolo-picked tempos.

Matched with Gann’s more traditional guitar thrashing and the brutally effective rhythm section of Fox and Dusenbury, Hunt-Hendrix brought these bizarre creations to life in a way that satisfyingly conveyed the chaotic blur of the record. The union of black metal sensibilities with GarageBand presets on speed and a newfound interest in “occult-oriented rap” sounds completely ludicrous on paper—and in many ways it is—but the band’s stone-faced dedication to pounding out these songs managed to sell them.

Hunt-Hendrix’s mantra-like vocals sounded more Gregorian chant than Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, offering a hypnotizing counterpoint to the music itself. Fox’s furious percussion revealed itself to be the band’s secret weapon, as he drove the backbone of these songs with such authority that it’s impossible to imagine them working at all with a replacement, synthetic or not.

Ultimately, Liturgy are a band who are boundary-pushing for better and for worse. The Ark Work legitimately sounds like nothing else out there at the moment, but whatever it offers in novelty and innovation doesn’t always make up for its repetitious and occasionally patience-trying nature. On this night, the set surely benefitted from the inclusion of a few older tracks like Aesthethica’s sludgy “Veins of God,” which offered a welcome break from the avant-garde for the (slightly) more traditional.

It goes without saying that Liturgy are not for everyone (I’m not even sure they’re for me, truthfully), but their commitment to pushing the envelope and not fearing the consequences is admirable. Hunt-Hendrix is following the muse wherever it leads him and producing something genuinely unique in the process. Call it pretentious, call it obnoxious, but it certainly isn’t stale.

A dramatically-lit opening set from NYC’s Yvette was also worthy of note on this night. The guitar/drums/seemingly endless array of pedals duo of Noah Kardos-Fein and Dale Eisinger commanded the room’s attention with clanging, angular noise-rock soaked in feedback. Extra points for the on-the-fly replacement of a snapped string that was seamlessly glossed over with some improvised drones.

—Ben Stas

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Yvette

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Liturgy

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