King Woman - Celestial Blues

17 Aug 2021 - Knut

Doom Metal/Post Metal/Post Rock | Relapse Records | Release date: 30 Jul 2021

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On the first EP from King Woman in 2015, Doubt, the cover depicted a woman standing on a boulder shouting at the sky. On this album the woman stands with her back to us, a cigarette burning in her right hand, angel-wing scars running down her back. You almost expect her to turn and sing: Willkommen! And bienvenue! Welcome!. Kristina Esfandiari, the multitalented artist behind the band, is known for using her own life story in both personal and metaphorical ways. And the covers make us imagine a journey from an anguished figure to a strong, maybe misunderstood, Luciferian figure. The musical journey that began with Shoegaze and Blackgaze now ventures into the soundscapes of Doom Metal and Post Metal.

The title track leads with a whisper reciting the first verse, followed by riffs from heavy doom-laden guitar and drums with wordless vocal soaring jubilant over the heaviness. The vocal changes to husky crooning and begin shifting between words and wordless clear vocals. The steady doom metal guitar is laying the groundwork together with the slow beats of the drums. The musicianship from guitarist Peter Arensdorf and the drums from Joseph Raygoza throughout the album illustrates writers and musicians in lockstep. They are as versatile as Efrandiari´s voice which is able to handle any vocal style from trance-like crooning, hypnotic suggestive voicings, screams, growling and beyond.

Esfandiari uses themes from Milton´s Paradise Lost to paraphrase her personal history. On the second song ”Morningstar” we are introduced to Lucifer Morningstar. The ambitious and rebellious angel, cast out of Heaven, stripped of wings, all scars on show. The ruler of Hell, the revenger, the bringer of light - he who lured Adam & Eve out of Paradise. The song starts calm with husky vocals, builds up to a crescendo with suggestive vocals in between an atmospheric metal soundscape with the heavy drumming that drives the song forward with hypnotic vocals repeating Lucifer, falling from the heights.

The third song, ”Boghz”, introduces what might be seen as part II of the album, and begins the build-up to the next songs that are fierce and powerful, with heavy guitars, hard drumming, rolling bass and vocals that shifts between broken, angry and strong to crooning, trance-like singing. The music draws on the diversity of the metal soundscape, dipping into doom metal, via post metal and on to grunge. As Esfandiari is of Iranian descent, ”Boghz” is a well placed title for an intense indignant song, as the word in Farsi means something like the lump of sorrow and pain one gets in the throat before venting ones frustrations.

The listener is lured into the next song, ”Golgotha” by husky crooning over melodic string picking. This song, as the title suggest, uses myths and legends connected to the place Christ was crucified, the place of the skull. The song is strong, with heavy riffs, building up to a post-like crescendo before the tempo shifts and the song quiets down with mourning violin before the vocals fades away with the words Never ends, no it never ends/The snake eats it’s tail, we return again to/This hell/This hell, I’ll see you again/Golgotha

The shortest song, ”Coil”is intense, the drumming and bass riffs are driving the song almost in a post hardcore direction, the vocals in controlled screaming. The heaviness continues into the next song, ”Entwined”, although the first notes are like the beginning of a somber post rock track. Desperately rasping vocals bark out over guitar riff and trance-like rhythm brings us to the build-up with the atmospheric guitars lifting up the music behind the vocals to the intense last half of the song, where the vocals are both desperate, strong and angry. As the released video shows, the next song, ”Psychic Wound”, is quite disturbing in its hypnotic intensity, the desperate screams mingled with the clear and sorrowful vocals. It really shows that the voice of Estefani is its own independent instrument throughout the album. Having watched the video, it is impossible while listening to the song, not to see the blood drenched body wriggling on an altar for your inner eye.

The impressive range of the vocals is very prominent in the next song, ”Ruse”. It is sometimes resigned, sometimes husky crooning and clear, and towards the end, intense, Tom Waits-like when she sings the words Now it’s my turn over the heavy atmospheric soundscape in this powerful and versatile song. The album closes with ”Paradise Lost”, a somber song, that in some way reaches back to parts of the first song and fades out over clear guitar with the words It´s just the saddest story.

This album is really a tour de force from the band. Their first EP was a promise of what was to come, their second album took further steps immersed in the Shoegaze/Blackgaze soundscape to pave the way to this mighty and vigorous album. One can listen to this album just to enjoy the music, one can dive into the legends from the poem of Paradise Lost or one can read up on Esfandiari’s personal story and find out how the concept of the album imagines that. And that is what great art does: it allows many interpretations.