When listening to new releases, there are times that compel the listener to reflect on the path traveled within an artist’s oeuvre. The impetus to this response can be driven by many factors, but in numerous cases it can be stirred to life by transformative sonic moments. In the case of Liturgy’s most recent release, Origin of the Alimonies (2020), the experience is not merely a transformative for the listener. It is a result of the body of sonic, introspective, and philosophical work done by Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and the collective of stellar musicians she, Bernard Gann, Tia Vincent-Clark, and Leo Didkovsky have surrounded themselves with to help convey these ideas.
Origin of the Alimonies is, according to Hunt-Hendrix in her YouTube video explaining key points of the album, conceived as an opera. However, this is not constructed with traditional Western Art musical concepts relative to opera prior to the onset of the 20th Century. The closest operatic work, and composer, of similar semblance falls into the realm of post-1945 avant-garde — Licht, by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). Stockhausen’s development as a writer, both musically and spiritually, from part one, Montag aus Licht (1977-1983) to the last segment, Sonntag aus Licht (1998-2003) is reminiscent of the transformation of Liturgy from HAQQ (2019)to Origin of the Alimonies. Stockhausen was, whether you agreed with him or not, one of the greatest minds in music during the mid/late 20th and early 21st Centuries. His contributions to electroacoustic music, lectures, and compositional ideologies have proved invaluable to the whole of the music world. That is an unquestionable, objective verity. The fact Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy, and company (which is a veritable chamber ensemble of Who’s Who of contemporary avant-garde musicians), have created a release that is the ballpark of Stockhausen’s magnum opus in the genre of experimental black metal is absolutely mind boggling.
Origin of the Alimonies is a landmark release in the twilight of the recent decade, and glimmer of visceral beauty amidst the complete dumpster fire of a year that was 2020.
An entire thesis could be written about this album from so many angles, but as stated in the above parenthetical point — this is a review, not an academic document. Looking at the breadth of the album and Hunt-Hendrix’s musing’s on understanding the universe, evolving understanding of herself, the release unfolds like an entire awe inspiring galaxy of emotions and sonic intricacy. It is her own gesamtkunstwerk she calls ‘Perichoresis’. The flute leitmotifs alongside the piano and organ work that meld into the blistering waves of ensemble output are outstanding testaments to those whom Hunt-Hendrix and Liturgy have amassed in terms of musical talent. Furthermore, it speaks volumes to Hunt-Hendrix’s compositional talent, and trust in her colleagues. Her ability to arrange and expand Olivier Messiaen’s (1908-1992) Apparition de l’église éternelle (1932), which is the foundation, and title (in English), of the massive penultimate track of the sonic journey, is a glorious and intense memoriam to the late great French composer, and organist. However, it is also a clear indication of just how exploratory, ingenious, and reflective Hunt-Hendrix has become as an artist and composer.
The world in which Origin of the Alimonies is rooted in the transformation of the mind, body, and the soul (whatever one believes that to be). The influences ranging from William Blake’s musings on Christ, to the Kabbalah, to Wagnerian musical concepts blossom with outstanding maturity, and captured something elusive so often within black metal as a whole — transcendent grace.
Origin of the Alimonies is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: Garrett A. Tanner