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It's very tempting to break down Liturgy's sophomore album Aesthethica into the numerous parts that make it up, or point to the band's obvious influences. While Liturgy has gone to great lengths to insist they are a black metal band, the Brooklyn unit -- vocalist/guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, drummer Greg Fox, bassist Tyler Dusenbury, and guitarist Bernard Gann -- is much more. While it's true that Aesthethica reflects and retains the intensity and single-pointed, focused drive of their debut, Renihilation, their musical development -- as composers and players -- is undeniable. Where the former album relied heavily on simple song structures to anchor the overarching furiousness of their attack, Aesthethica, by contrast, is far more sophisticated; enough so to get them barred from the "black metal" club forever by purists. The minimal guitar plinks that intro the opener "High Gold" gain in frequency and become a blur before the entire unit kicks in on full stun. Fox's blastbeats quadruple-time the band, Hendrix shrieks incoherently, and the high-pitched, syncopated wall of guitars suggests an exponentially overblown version of one of Glenn Branca's guitar symphonies, but moves much further off the scale. "True Will" (whose lyrics are transcendentally spiritual) begins with a modern version of vocal polyphony before the violence of instruments creates a startling corridor of noise; before long, however, it reveals a very complex network of tones, sounds, pulses, and textures, and though it seems there are few of them here, actual spaces. Hendrix's screaming sounds more like ecstasy than pain, as if he is indeed communing with God in the outer reaches of the spheres. Each of these 12 tracks is so melodically and dynamically labyrinthine -- not too mention outrageously heavy -- they're exhausting. Other choice cuts include "Returner," "Red Crown," "Sun of Light," and closer "Harmonia" (the last of these at least appears to be slower, but that's deceptive). Aesthethica consists of intricate, sophisticated songs, full of majesty, nearly insane drive, intention, and the frighteningly unleashed power of emotion; and they all rock. Hard. This is extreme music. Period. It may come to define or utterly transcend metal; but it doesn't matter because this album is in its own class. Anyone remotely interested in heavy music needs to encounter Aesthethica at least once.

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