ALBUM REVIEW: Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – ‘SAVED!’

Artwork for Revered Kristin Michael Hayter’s ‘SAVED!’

From the beginning, Lingua Ignota never felt like a project that was built to last. There was just too much volatility around it to remain sustainable in the long term, in what amounted to an intense dredging of Kristin Hayter’s history of abuse, violence and torment, and framed in fittingly nightmarish stead. Both Caligula and Sinner Get Ready were exceptional pieces of work for what they achieved, but they weren’t pleasant to revisit (if you were so inclined to revisit a woman’s unfiltered accounts of her own torture at all). And with a sound as domineeringly abrasive as those albums had—a mix of industrial music, noise and borderline neo-classical ambition—Hayter’s decision to wrap that phase of her music lineage up on her own terms isn’t surprising whatsoever.

So under the name Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter comes SAVED!, which in numerous ways, almost acts as the coda to Lingua Ignota. Here is Hayter regaining her own personhood, in the form of looking to recapture a faith that was previously immolated, as documented on Sinner Get Ready. It makes sense for this to be the follow-up then, reflecting back the persecution at the hands of the Christian church by looking to find some solace in religion once again. But with Hayter at the wheel, the intense, avant-garde sensibilities play a far greater role, thus embodying the dogmas of the Pentecostal-Holiness Movement and its more visceral skew to finding closeness to God.

In other words, if you picture a worship album through the auteurial lens of one of the most uncompromisingly honest voices that heavy music has seen in recent years, that’s SAVED!. The sterile, ossified veneers associated with that type of music are ripped away to reveal the true ardour in the process of this particular healing. As much as Hayter speaks the words of finding religious salvation, the delivery and production betray a holy terror that shrieks and convulses in its own misshapen quest for spirituality. It’s less religious opulence and more the sound from a dilapidated backwoods church, where its parishoners’ cultlike devotion to God manifests as otherworldly howls and cries of the exorcised. The banshee wails that form the backing vocals on IDUMEA have a distinct chill to them, as does the creaking minimalism of the pianos and acoustics that form the bulk of SAVED!’s musical profile. The whorls of dread within are what keep the funereal dirge of pace so immensely compelling, before they break out in epiphanies of noise and exaltation.

Just look at the closer HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING for that, in which all attention is pulled away from Hayter’s softer piano and vibrato, and onto the woman speaking in tongues and screaming and crying in the background, in what could well be the most legitimately galling musical moment to unearth itself all year. It’s a depiction of Christianity that’s loaded most by its subtext, where the shape of worship music and gospel standards supposedly covers the existential horror beneath, but fails by design. This is the true face of a faith often masked by megachurch pomp and televangelist charisma—violence and viciousness as requisites for salvation, with no punches pulled in exposing how thing the thread holding it all together is. But from Hayter’s perspective, it’s also embraced. There may be criticism within this—particularly for those who choose to read it that way—but the desire for said salvation is also a fully earnest one. The uncensored purges of Hayter’s Lingua Ignota days prelude the same torrential release here, in the desire to reach God by whatever means necessary, no matter how ugly and scary it may outwardly appear to be.

By no means is SAVED! a heavy album, but it carries itself like one. Maybe in a way that even surpasses most ‘actual’ heavy albums; you’ll rarely find a metal band as willing to dive into the creative weeds as Hayter is to cultivate an atmosphere. The mix is deliberately battered and hollow, made to sound like it’s degrading as it goes. It’s the kind of thing more suited to play from a wax cylinder than a streaming service, and there’s natural intrigue in watching how that plays out. Again, it’s not a conventially ‘easy’ listen, but you’re unlikely to find something so brazen with its choices as the haphazard dropping in and out of volume and fidelity on I’M GETTING OUT WHILE I CAN, or the metallic fuzz that rings out around every baleful piano note of THE POOR WAYFARING STRANGER. The air is masterfully composed, of spartan, fundamentalist religion where the rawness is tantamount to the dedication to finding religious enlightenment.

It really is its own thing, standing firmly away from pretty much anything even encroaching on similar design spaces. Just what’s expected of Hayter, then, even if SAVED! bears a lot of the same hallmarks of a bleeding confessional first and an album second. Multiple listens benefit it though, even if the slow, black burn and constant creaking under its own weight can make it a difficult one. Though that’s undoubtedly the point, as Hayter once again rends open wounds exclusive to her and lets an extensive listener base—for lack of a better word—invade. It’s what separates Hayter from even a lot of other experimental heavy musicians, and regardless of how the work turns out in the end, it’s always been an important factor in getting you through the door. In the case of SAVED!, there’s far more intrigue on top of that to captivate right from the start.

For fans of: Lingua Ignota, Liturgy, Uboa

‘SAVED!’ by Revered Kristin Michael Hayter is released on 20th October on Perpetual Flame Ministries.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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