If black metal fan boys hated Hunter Hunt-Hendrix before, they are going to pop a blood vessel over “The Ark Work.” Taking a progressive approach, Hunt-Hendrix brought black metal to its breaking point on “Aesthethica” by deconstructing its clichés into a growling, droning masterpiece. This time around, he transcends the genre, creating something beautiful if not exactly recognizable as black metal.
“The Ark Work” is a roaring ocean of sound and ecstasy. Hunt-Hendrix captures a blissful comfort in moving past religion rather than spitting and scoffing at it. The album begins with the literally named “Fanfare,” a pulsing blast of horns that speeds up and bleeds into itself until it becomes a bleating, almost electronic ruckus. Hunt-Hendrix takes the repetitive din of black metal blast beats and applies it to every element: horns, bells, vocals, MIDI strings. Every inch of sonic space in “Follow” is filled with a cascade of clattering chimes and bells creating an ethereal ambiance. Traditional cookie monster vocals are replaced by melodically monotonous chants. The songs start simply, but expand quickly in intensity and sheer sound until it feels like they’ll shatter. It’s a religious experience in an anti-religious genre.
“The Ark Work” is both a complete departure and a perfectly logical follow up to its predecessor. Its complete lack of aggression and enlarged sound palate doesn’t leave the album toothless, but in a state of grace that’s fascinatingly alien in a genre defined by its coarse and malicious trappings. Many traditional extreme music aficionados will undoubtedly hate everything about Liturgy and its new album; but to the precious few open-minded metal heads out there, “The Ark Work” will change your perception of what black metal can be.