There is no music award for getting under listeners’ skin. However, if that honor existed, it would certainly go to Liturgy for Aesthetica, the band’s follow-up to 2009’s Renihilation. Band leader Hunter Hunt-Hendrix catches endless Internet commenter grief for the lofty language he uses to describe the black metal group’s “transcendental” aims. His manifesto posits redemption and affirmation as philosophical and musical foundations within a nihilistic subgenre that rarely lets any light in. Yet Aesthetica‘s power lies not only in its ability to reveal the insecurities of listeners who would rather remain earthbound and hopeless; this is an album that completely supports the claims that preceded it. There is illimitable energy and life in these riffs and in the truly astonishing work of drummer Greg Fox, who recently left the band. Aesthetica houses some of the most uncanny sonic experimentation I’ve heard in years—at once, both virtuosic in its traditional metal musicianship and uplifting as poignant compositions of sacred minimalism. 2011 has been a good year for the genre of American Black Metal, and Liturgy’s Aesthetica is by far its crowning achievement.