Lingua Ignota - CALIGULA

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In the ways that Lingua Ignota sees it, beauty and darkness, calm and chaos, are not mutually exclusive concepts. Kristin Hayter, a singer and multi-instrumentalist residing out of Rhode Island, puts together one of the most nightmarish, punishing musical experiences of the yea, all while keeping a foot in the traditions of operatic neo-classical at all times.

Hayter’s previous effort, All Bitches Die, went considerably unnoticed. Her 2019 release, CALIGULA, however, will be much harder to ignore. While showing off considerable technical ability with her classically trained singing, Ignota often finds herself in a venomous screech, resembling the vocal styles of black metal, yet surpassing the ferocity and terror of any extreme metal album this year.  Lyrically, Ignota addresses the psychological trauma brought on from a domestic abuser, responding with resounding anger hinted at with the all-caps song titles.

Lingua Ignota has a strong interest in religious imagery, giving the album a spiritually punishing quality. Opener “FAITHFUL SERVANT FRIEND OF CHRIST” gives the listener some time to settle in as it opens with sawing strings. Her warbling vocals become more and more invigorating as one cascading harmony is added on top after another. This introduction seamlessly leads into the ten-minute epic, “DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR”. Ignota sounds absolutely sinister as she is backed by creeping keys and crashing percussion. The track reaches a demented climax as she proclaims “How do I break you, before you break me” with a blood-curdling scream. The strings take on a vampyric, cinematic tone adding to the utter horror this song presents.

“BUTCHER OF THE WORLD” leaves no room to breathe before its hellish intensity overpowers. Out of the gate, Ignota devilishly screams “I’m the fucking death dealer!” At many points, but in this song particularly, the music becomes physical, bringing the listener to truly claustrophobic points. Truth be told, this album is not recommended for everyone.

Ignota’s interests in industrial and coldwave come out on “MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE”. Chilling electronics and droning, metallic feedback fight against the piano arpeggios that painfully tease moments of solitude for the listener. “Who will love you if I don't? Who will fuck you if I won't?” she asks her betrayer.

Her interest in religion comes back on “IF THE POSION WON’T TAKE YOU MY DOGS WILL”. The song opens up with a chanting of Kyrie eleison, a common liturgical phrase translating into “Lord Have Mercy.” “Life is cruel, and time heals nothing and everyone you love will leave you,” she pleads in one of the most painfully nihilistic lines of the year. “If you lay your life down, no man can take it,” she adds.

CALIGULA is a fully fleshed-out artistic statement of vengeance, betrayal, abuse, and torture. Ignota unloads her seething anger with an apocalyptic fury. This is the soundtrack of nightmares. Many will hear the more ugly vocals here and be reminded of black or death metal. But while borrowing the common vocal techniques of those genre, the instrumentation of metal music is almost entirely absent. Ignota’s music is almost entirely symphonic-based. Yet when judging by shock value and terror, CALIGULA makes even the most punishing metal project this year seem like child’s play. This is a towering, ambitious project, and one of the most disturbing listening experiences of 2019.

 

Grade: A