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King Woman : Created In The Image Of Suffering

A haunting, ghostly, and harrowing album full of personal despair from King Woman.

King Woman began as a mysterious Ethereal Wave solo project of frontwoman Kristina Esfandiari, while she was the vocalist for Shoegaze band Whirr. After a couple of demos, KW grew into a four piece band, and began to add in some heavier elements to the mix. In 2015, they released their debut EP, 'Doubt', which grabbed the attention of fans in the realms of Doom, Sludge, and Shoegaze. With this brand new album, 'Created In The Image Of Suffering', they are further solidifying their sound in Doom Metal and making their mark in the genre.

Some could see it as though King Woman are merging the Doom and Post-Metal sounds of bands like Neurosis, Jesu, and Windhand with the Dream Pop/Ethereal Wave of Mazzy Star or Chelsea Wolfe. The bulk of their music is created by heavy, raw, and noisy guitar riffs blended with Esfandiari's dreamy, layered alto vocal harmonies. The combination makes for a very haunting, ghostly, and harrowing album that has a personal sense of despair, woven into every note and lyric.

Opening track 'Utopia' is perhaps the most traditional sounding track out of the bunch. Shrill feedback explodes into an anthemic main riff. The pace carries on a sludgy 6/8 rhythm, led by the choral harmonies of Esfandiari's voice. This track in particular brings Windhand's more uplifting tracks to mind, as the atmosphere is more triumphant and the vocals have a whimsical sound to them, similar to what one would hear on 'Soma'.

After the majestic 'Utopia', the mood grows darker and more personal. Themes of losing faith, self-doubt, and suffering in general begin to come to the forefront with bleaker melodies, suffocating atmospheres, and emotional vocal lines. 'Deny' and 'Shame' both take the music to more monotonous territory. Cold vocal harmonies, droning guitar and bass melodies, steady drumming, and a stormy atmosphere make up the bulk of these two downers.

'Hierophant' is a lengthy piece, serving as sort of a centerpiece between the two halves of the album. Drifting in like a ballad turned cold, a sense of longing in the vocals floats over the sparse guitar lines, alongside a welcome addition of some melancholic violin lines. It's the most human sounding track out of the bunch; perpetuating a more vulnerable kind of sorrow, as opposed to the more bitter sound of the tracks to follow.

'Worn' and 'Manna' bring back the intensity of the earlier tracks, though the stone-cold monotony has evolved into anger. The former of the two begins quietly, eventually building up to the latter, which is an intense anthem of Post-Doom. "WHO do you think you ARE?" Esfandiari shouts in the midst of aggressive mid-tempo riffage, equipped with some busier drumming and cold sounding riffs that wouldn't sound out of place on a Neurosis release.

Following the climactic and more up-beat 'Manna', final track 'Hem' follows up with a tone of utter desperation. The tempo dwindles down to a morose, droning pace. The guitars and drums grow more sparse as gentle, nearly whispered, vocals repeat the line "I'm reaching for a hemů" as if it were a mantra, as the album comes to a haunting close.

This album won't be for everybody. The music is very much vocally driven, and the heavily reverbed alto singing is what gives the album its unique style. The guitars have no solos or wailing leads, but rather they are used to create a backbone of droning rhythm lines with the rumbling bass and crisp drums. There is a heavy, mechanical, wall-of-sound feel to the movement of the accompanying instruments which will make you feel as if you are being submerged in a sea of black and gold drone riffs. This metaphor only somewhat comes to mind due to the gorgeous cover art.

My only real complaint about 'Created In The Image Of Suffering' is how incredibly short it feels. Half of the tracks on here come to three to four minutes, with the lengthiest tracks reaching six to eight minutes. Considering there are only seven songs, I feel as if there could have been room for at least another track, if not several. Because of this, it feels as if the album kind of passes over you when you listen to it. Just as you start to really find yourself sinking into the music and really absorbing its monstrous sound, it comes to an end, making you wish there were more.

That being said, I am more than pleased with the music within. King Woman are going to make a pretty big name for themselves in the realms of Doom and Post-Metal, and this album is a pretty great start. I am particularly reminded of British band The River, who made themselves known for playing abrasive, almost drone-influenced Doom Metal with bleak alto vocals and an intense, deeply personal side to it. The introspection and sincere anguish that was once heard in 'Drawing Down The Sun' reverberates in the painful lyrics and angry atmosphere that is created here, and thus, fans of The River must hear it immediately. In general, those who want to hear a fresh and modern take on Doom should give it a try.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Utopia
2. Deny
3. Shame
4. Hierophant
5. Worn
6. Manna
7. Hem

Duration : Approx. 39 minutes

Visit the King Woman bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-03-27 by Dante DuVall
Rotten Copper
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