King Woman’s got a winning formula—shoegaze, doom metal, ambient, dreamy vocals, Gothic content, foreboding murk, and riffs. In the ever-increasing pigeonholing of metal genres, it would take some Dr. Seuss lexicon-bending to hit their moronically titled genre sweet spot, wherever it is. (Shoomgaze? Ethereal Goth Rock? Send help.)
On their full-length debut, ‘Created In The Image Of Suffering,’ the group fleshes out their sound and plays with their diverse toolkit. And when it’s on, it’s on.
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The opener rips open with some good old fuzz, riffs, and the irresistible vocals of frontwoman Kristina Esfandiari. And without a doubt, the breathy, languid crooning of Esfandiari is an easy standout throughout the LP—from the smallest introspective harmonies to the soaring doom vocals she bellows as heavy as any of the greats, it’s hard not to be lulled in by a vocalist who can sound so arresting and so goddamn tired all at once. Paired with the thundering riffs of tracks like ‘Utopia,’ King Woman is unstoppable.
Since their EP ‘Doubt,’ the group has diversified further into doom and rock territories that creep in and out of the record; sometimes it works, but sometimes the record is too quick to ditch one set of tools completely for another. ‘Deny,’ for instance, is a pretty straightforward doom metal track in every aspect except that it clocks in at a breezy 3:54, never quite long enough for the dripping atmosphere so integral to the genre to really take root. Tracks have a tendency to rob themselves of the cathartic release the lyrics beg, even when stretched into sprawling longer pieces such as ‘Hierophant.’ In between, King Woman’s peppered some real rockers and ambient transition sections that are excellent—until they end, and trip into another bit, snatched up by another set of tools.
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You want one real moment: closer ‘Hem’ builds, swells, and croons upwards for six and a half minutes of otherworldly, ritualistic layering—I mean really, those vocals take you dimensions away—but immediately drops off with no real conclusion at the precise moment the world seems about to be wrenched out from under and swallowed by one of their colossal doomgaze (I’m committed now) riffs. It feels like the song never gets the chance to become itself.
Ah, but you say, ah, but isn’t that the point? Doesn’t that reflect the spiritual and universal frustration bound by the music, the ever yearning upwards woven between each powerful note?
Maybe so. But it can make for some anticlimactic rock songs.
But what the heck do I know? Bottom line is that ‘Image of Suffering’ is a decent rock album, it’s a great last dip into the doom and gloom before spring hits, and it’s doing something different, which is hard to say for a lot of acts. Maybe some more time touring, weaving the pieces, expanding their palette, and adopting a willingness to meander, and King Woman will knock it out the park next time around.
For now, have a look-see into the mist and see what you can see.
‘Created In The Image Of Suffering’ is out now via Relapse Records.