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Liturgy - "The Ark Work" (CD)

Liturgy - "The Ark Work" CD cover image

"The Ark Work" track listing:

1. Fanfare
2. Follow
3. Kel Valhaal
4. Follow II
5. Quetzalcoatl
6. Father Vorizen
7. Haelegen
8. Reign Array
9. Vitriol
10. Total War

Reviewed by on March 12, 2015

"Let me clear this up for anyone who will make the same mistake I did... It's not avant-garde. It's not experimental. It's not progressive. It's just bad."

I've probably heard thousands of albums in the seven years I've been reviewing for Metalunderground.com, and that's seen a whole lot of variety covering every style and sub-genre you can imagine. While I've been able to experience some truly stunning and awe-inspiring works of art, just due to sheer volume I've also reviewed a fair share of music I'll simply never listen to again. There's been well-meaning but poorly executed albums, there's been underwhelming albums from bands that should have done better, and there's even been a handful of actively bad releases, but never before have I heard something that made me think, “someone needs to stop these people from making more music.”

“The Ark Work” starts off with interest-piquing trumpets on opening track “Fanfare,” giving the impression the album will be a symphonic leaning metal release. After 60 seconds they curiously haven't stopped yet however, and the atonal quality starts to get worse as more trumpets are layered on top with no thought to how they fit together. After 2:21 of increasingly obnoxious sounds that don't know when to quit, a thought pops into my head, one which will repeat many, many times over the next 55 minutes or so: “holy mother of god, this is annoying.”

Much of “The Ark Work” follows that same template of laying sounds on top of each other that have no business being together. Random electronic sounds, a crowd cheering, and black metal blast beats vie for attention while the front man brings out these disjointed, out of sync vocals totally lacking in any sort of pitch or tone. He may as well be underwater (or maybe he's just running his finger rapidly up and down his Adam's apple while singing?). Every 10 - 30 seconds or so the music then gets a stuttering, skipping effect, because apparently its just not irritating enough on its own.

There are segments across the disc that make it clear the members have a grasp of how music should work - the industrial / electronic outing “Quetzalcoatl” is at least halfway listenable, and “Reign Array” is more along the lines of lo-fi, kvlt black metal - but Liturgy then gleefully goes out of its way to destroy that notion and actively antagonize the listener.

“Kel Valhall” is essentially the same thing as “Fanfare,” but five minutes longer and with even more obnoxious sounds added in. At this point on the first listen through, I find myself convinced Liturgy has to just be trolling. This has got to be a joke: no one can possibly take this seriously. “Follow II” has me amending that belief – this isn't a joke, it's an insult. The two minute mass of screeching sounds that end the track seems like a personal affront to the audience, like an attempt to harm them through music. It's the auditory equivalent of spitting in a person's mouth and screaming a racial slur at them.

“Father Verizen” has potential as a stoner metal track, as the basic riff and song structure aren't awful on their own, but it just gets repeated into oblivion and destroyed by the vocals. “Vitriol,” on the other hand, is unredeemable in every possible way. The off-key chanting vocals seem like a bad joke, the annoying sound effects are out in unbelievable force, and then a half-hearted rap beat gets added. The truly awful mashup makes Emmure seem musically and lyrically competent by comparison.

Liturgy is referred to as “transcendental black metal,” but it seems like the “transcendental” part is really just an excuse to randomly mash annoying sounds together and still have people insist its somehow profound. Let me clear this up for anyone who will make the same mistake I did. This isn't music that's challenging and will become more appreciable if you just pay attention hard enough. There aren't deeper layers that unfold over multiple listens. It's not avant-garde. It's not experimental. It's not progressive. It's just bad.

Highs: "Quetzalcoatl" and "Reign Array" aren't actively unlistenable, and that's about the best thing that can be said about this album.

Lows: Think of a truly annoying sound, then repeat it for seven minutes but add in a bunch of stuttering and skipping: that's a Liturgy track.

Bottom line: This might be the worst album I've ever heard - metal or otherwise.

Rated 0.5 out of 5 skulls
0.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)