Noise can be cathartic. For Kristin Hayter, noise can even be a form of salvation. Caligula, Hayter’s latest album — released under the name Lingua Ignota — serves as a punishing retribution. To listen to this cacophonous symphony is to be indoctrinated into a new, outré brand of self-care and feminism, to harvest wrong-doing as power, to confront evil with an equally malicious means, leaving the earth scorched in the rearview. This is a big undertaking, a bold defiance of genre and ideological conventions, but Hayter has always had the mind of a formalist and the conviction of a zealot, rebelling against the patriarchy, and its figurines who have abused and starved her. This is her hour of vengeance: Caligula blends drones and keyboards with lush horns, massive timpani, and spasmatic strings to create a gothic, neoclassical soundscape. Atop all of this is Hayter’s vast vocal — which switches between haunting screams, a tormented alto, and some more complicated techniques, like singing in overtones. The accumulation becomes an abstract, theatrical vision, one rife with religious imagery and metaphor, yet also a work so visceral that it represents an almost universal, shared trauma. Hayter leads the listener to the deepest circles of hell, but it’s difficult not to feel like she’s the right guide for that destination.
Her hour of vengeance: Caligula blends drones and keyboards with lush horns, massive timpani, and spasmatic strings to create a gothic, neoclassical soundscape. Atop all of this is Hayter’s vast vocal — which switches off between haunting screams, a tormented alto, and some more complicated techniques, like singing in overtones.
And in spite of all of the darkness and bravado, Caligula is also an album not without its share of noticeable hooks, and even many isolated moments of melodic beauty. The overtone signing on “Fragrant Is My Many Flower’d Crown,” and the a capella outro of the album’s most immaculate and dense track, “Do You Doubt Me Traitor,” are ingratiating. Lyrically, Hayter finds power in repetition, whether that be in service of inciting acts of violence (“Kill them all,” repeated 24 times, on “Spite Alone Holds Me Aloft”), or threatening to do so (“Everything burns down around me,” 30 times, on “May Failure Be Your Noose”). And she invokes every cosmic force, from hymns to God (“Faithful Servant Friend Of Christ”), to Satanic collusion (“Do You Doubt Me Traitor”), to the tyranny wrought by her own hand (“Fucking Deathdealer”). Hayter challenges male-dominated sounds of metal and classical music, and also the masculine ideal of destruction, reappropriating the havoc and pain that men have inflicted on her; she refuses to be a woman battered and infringing on the brutish commodity of evil. On Caligula, Hayter presents herself as a staple of femininity, and one that dates back far before that oft-paraphrased quote from The Mourning Bride: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”