Liturgy's Hunter Hunt-Hendrix Is the Triple H of Black Metal

The lead singer on Stockhausen and the goal of reaching that 'impossible transcendent space'

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, besides having an alliterative name, also has a reputation for words. The bandleader of Brooklyn-based Liturgy has written numerous times on music, and his take on what he has termed "transcendental black metal" has earned him a reputation for loquaciousness that has resulted in a few back-and-forth exchanges with other musicians and fans, not all of them positive. En route to a visit of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, though, he's as relaxed as one could want.

"I really enjoy thinking about and writing about music, but not just that. There's an aspect of the band that isn't just music; there's an urge to express that stuff," he says. "In rock, people value not being very articulate. Yet a lot of the classical composers also wrote and write at length—that's maybe an inspiration. I used to spend a lot of time reading Stockhausen's writing, while Xenakis has this beautiful vision that inspires his music; he wrote an entire book about it. Every new Steve Reich piece comes with a neat essay about where he thinks it fits into music history. There's definitely a tradition of writing about your music, but maybe it's not the same tradition in rock."

Hunt-Hendrix is partway through his band's latest tour, a nationwide trip that includes a stop in Costa Mesa on Sunday. Liturgy's second and most recent album, Aesthetica, released earlier this year on Thrill Jockey, has been caught up in a wider debate within American metal that is this year's recurrence of a now-endless argument about real vs. "false" metal, however described. Seemingly lost in the whole exchange is whether the album is any good; with songs such as "Harmonia," with its dramatic chanted opening shading into bursts of exultant guitar and drums, Aesthetica is no slouch.

When it's sunny outside, use big words
Jason Nocito
When it's sunny outside, use big words

Location Info


Detroit Bar

843 W. 19th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Music Venues

Region: Costa Mesa


Liturgy perform with Chelsea Wolfe at Detroit Bar, Sun., 9 p.m. $8. 21+.

"It's been different for the past two records," notes Hunt-Hendrix. "For the first record [2009's Renihilation], we recorded quickly after having learned the songs, and over time, we performed them in a way that sounded like the record. This time around, we played the songs a whole lot before recording the record—I spent more time writing this record, and the songs reflect that. It's basically a replication of the live experience. We're not doing anything in the studio that wouldn't be possible live."

Ultimately, the drive he finds in performance is something that can be seen both in how he writes about music and how he performs it—no question that he and his band mates don't stand stock-still onstage. When it comes to concerts, action and activity are key.

"The music is meant to be very physical; the joy we get in playing it comes out of that," he says. "The idea of transcendental black metal—a big part of that is having sort of an organic quality, as opposed to an atmospheric quality. That's not something we think about too much, but the physical playing and us syncing together are definitely really important.

"I aim for that impossible transcendent space," Hunt-Hendrix concludes. "You asymptotically draw close, but never quite to it. But sometimes, there are definitely ecstatic experiences where you feel you're inside it."

This article appeared in print as "The Triple H of Black Metal: Liturgy's Hunter Hunt-Hendrix on Stockhausen and the goal of reaching that 'impossible transcendent space.'"

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Interesting. I've heard about them, but never bothered to listen, because black metal seemed to be getting way too artsy, not enough fartsy for me in the past 15 years or so. But hey! Ned Ragget is writing about it and I'm bored at work, so why not?

After listening to a couple tracks...sounds about what I had expected. It's not bad, but I wasn't blown away. It was fun, however, to poke around all the back-and-forth between the haters and the fans. And after reading something from HHH on Sterogum...sheesh, loquacious is right. Dude has sophism down pat. It all just reminds me of a boring, trite "artist statement", really, and it further proves the point that the music should always speak for itself.

But's not bad stuff. The "black metal" tag obviously rubs people the wrong way. My first impression was that Liturgy reminded me of Lightning Bolt. Speaking of Lightning Bolt, when I was younger and actually cared about such things, their bursting onto the scene and being labeled "power violence" would piss me off. In high school I listened to to basically anything on the Slap A Ham or DeepSix Records imprint, seemingly the birthplace of the genre. So it irked me when something so different was being lumped in with music that I thought to be completely out of place. So I can see why some of the black metal community have their gauntlets in a bunch.

One thing I'll give Liturgy is they don't seem to come off as very fun. The older I got, the more I just wanted metal to have some aspect of fun/partying in it. Which is why I haven't bought a BM record since Emperor's Anthems To The Velkin At Dusk.

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