On Sunday November 14th New York Black Metal band Liturgy performed with Athens locals Geisterkatzen at Farm 255 in Athens, GA. The night was filled with noise and brutal beauty.
Geisterkatzen were first to perform. Consisting of guitar, drums, synth, saxophone, keyboards, and voice, the group’s name literally means “ghost cat” in German. Each member wore an identical white cat mask during the set. Combined with the ghostly sound of theremin and droning bass feedback, the cute masks were somehow made menacing. Their set consisted of two songs, each building from a simple keyboard drone, adding instruments, and crescendoing to a raucous jam. At the peak of volume drummer William Kennedy tortured his kit with mad thwaps in no predictable fashion. He was like a windmill flailing about the thing and coming up from his seat in agitation multiple times. He could hardly contain himself, while the rest of the band stood their stoically staring from beneath the cat masks. Low saxophone, squirrelly theremin, blaring keyboards, a synthesized guitar sounding like a space organ, and a steady bass line created a huge, but audible crust. For thirty minutes they deconstructed music to it’s most primitive form: sheer noise. They are one of my favorite local Athens bands.
After wheeling in their drumset, bass amp, and two guitar amps, Liturgy began their set. From the get go they wasted no time in spraying high frequency notes. I had expected blast beats and double picked riffs, but they were different. Drummer Greg Fox’s drumming technique was impeccable. He easily moved between different styles of blast and grind within songs. Watching his left hand on the snare, I saw that his arm and palm barely moved. With the mere flick of his middle and ring fingers he could send the drumstick down to the drum head at speeds which made it nearly invisible. He was cool and relaxed though their entire set and seemed to exert little energy in creating such extreme sounds.
Although it took me a second to adjust to the breakneck tempos, by the second song I began to understand what their self incurred moniker of “Transcendental Black Metal” meant. Within the buzzing terror of their sound existed beautiful chords and harmonic dissonance. Despite blast beats, harsh tone, and screeched vocals, the sounds beneath the surface were delicate and touching. They were blissful, happy, and hopeful. Somehow, Liturgy infused beauty into the chaotic noise of Black Metal. Frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s unchanging, serene facial impression only furthered the effect.
Their third song began with technical failures from bassist Tyler Dusenbury’s amp. Apparently a speaker had been blown (a recurring problem for him I later came to find). Thankfully, a member of Geisterkatzen came to the rescue with a spare cabinet. The song began with a distorted bass line which turned over several times before being joined by drums. The rhythm remained slow and subdued – a stark contrast to the previous songs-and guitars eventually joined to double the riff. For the first time in their set the twin guitars rung together on unison chords of a riff and created a stereoscopic effect within the room. Greg’s drumming in this song impressed me again with groovy combos and speedy yet simplistic tom-tom fills.
Another song, their last, matched this hypnotic groove and likewise was completely instrumental. The two songs were favorites of mine, but their speedier ones were equally entrancing in their own ways. Hunter’s complex and unusual fingerings of the guitar tended to spider their way down the high strings of the neck as he strummed at a lighting pace. After their set, the band had introduced a crowd of strangers to Transcendental Black Metal and, hopefully, garnered some new fans.