Would You Be Free From The Burden Of Sin? Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter’s SAVED!

The artist formerly known as Lingua Ignota leaves it all behind with this searing missive from the other world, finds Enrico Monacelli

Photo Credit Rev. Herschel B. Rutherfor

I have an interest in theology. Not the scholarly kind, but the sentimental, morbid variety. In uni this passion became feverish, forcing me to nurture a secret garden of practices and superstitious. One of the most histrionic was etching this quote from the The Ladder of Divine Ascent on the front cover of my notebook: “Not every desire for death is good. […] some, who do not want to repent, invoke death out of despair. And some, out of self-esteem consider themselves dispassionate, and for a while have no fear of death. And some (if such can now be found), through the action of the Holy Spirit, ask for their departure”. A quote that comes in handy to make sense of Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter’s (FKA Lingua Ignota) new record, SAVED!

Both St. John Climacus and Reverend Hayter are facing the same problem: how to turn the knife at the knots that bind us to this world.

SAVED! is manifestly a record of death-like unmooring and majestic rebirths: first and foremost, it is the album that marks the shedding of the Lingua Ignota moniker, a name with which Reverend Hayter has carved a name for herself in the fucked-up music underground. This new record is evidently a watershed moment for Revered Hayter, who has managed to slither out of herself and unburden her artistic persona of the lore and weight that had grown attached to the Lingua Ignota moniker. But, most importantly, SAVED! is held together by a grand secessionist spirit, both on a thematic and sonic level. The impetus to just leave everything behind for good cuts through the whole thing. The binding agent that keeps SAVED! together is the desire to be done with… well… everything and be reborn in a virginal state of grace.

Reverend Hayter sings the straight and narrow path out of this world and the strife of leaving behind absolutely all there is in this world, even her hellbound friends. She hisses and screeches about Judgement Day and putting this sinful world on trial – so much so, that the very first line of the record reads: “GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN / ON JUDGEMENT DAY DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU STAND”. And the lyrics throughout SAVED! drip with this beautiful, rabid otherworldliness (and the blood of the Lamb, of course). It may sound vicious (and by all intents and purposes it really is vicious), but it is also honestly liberating – even consolatory. SAVED! sketches the features of the many faces of the desire to let it all go, from the devastating to the madly joyous.

After all, the end is never just an end in the narrative that SAVED! builds. On the contrary, the sorrow that Reverend Hayter sings is always somewhat redemptive – part of the harrowing process of becoming something other than oneself, as “PERFECT AS A BLADE OF GRASS,” as the Reverend herself puts it. While most of her previous records fell on the bleak side of the emotional spectrum, SAVED! is horrifying yet uplifting. The line that sets jump-scare and conversion apart is fruitfully thin this time around. The whole record is moved by the conviction that healing never happens easily, naturally, but only through a painful metamorphosis. But, as St. John Climacus pointed out above, there’s indeed the possibility of a good death, and a desire that points in that very direction.

But these words and ideas would be nothing if it wasn’t for the sounds: piano chords, prepared with bells and chains, blasting like shrapnel mid-air, the tape itself deranged and defaced. Songs fade in and out and implode unto themselves. While Lingua Ignota’s records were lavish and huge-sounding, even amidst there undeniable brutality; Reverend Hayter’s first record is ugly, no-fi The first track, ‘I’M GETTING OUT WHILE I CAN’, for example, contorts all over itself as if corruption got the best of the tape. Or, again, in ‘THE POOR WAYFARING STRANGER’, a sobering ballad that sets off the last leg of the record, the instruments sound off as sharp as a knife stab. It all echoes and explodes like it was dragged out of a muddy ditch after months of incessant rain. The overall desired effect is what Reverend Hayter defines as “musicological antiquity”, and SAVED! really does sound like the relic of a forgotten folklore or sunken land.

As usual with Reverend Hayter, the most startling instrument in all the mayhem is certainly her own voice, strained to its very limit. SAVED! crawls with sighing, gagging, humming and unknown languages. There are several passages throughout the record that come off almost baroque in their excessive extravagance. ‘HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING’ is a horrifying experiment in vocal violence, for example. It is startling, the entirety of the eight-minute onslaught haunted by the ghost of voices speaking and crying and screaming in tongues. It puts into practice that quest for a holy secession – starting from the gold standards of the studio industrial complex. It may sound corny or exaggerated, but I had to stop halfway through that track to be able to take it all in.

But, again, it’s not all darkness and violence. The record might be extravagantly brutal, but it is mostly in service of grandeur and ecstasy. As much as a song like ‘HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING’ might sound hellish, the end result is fantastically cathartic. And on tracks like ‘MAY THIS COMFORT AND PROTECT YOU’ the prepared pianos and their chains and bells and the crackling recording and the strained voice sound luminous – blinding most of the times, sure, but bright nonetheless. Like everything that has to do with SAVED!, the gruesome bits turn out to be something more akin to the violent thrusts one has to go through to shed old skin and old selves rather than gloomy harbingers of doom.

The Italian mystic and erudite Cristina Campo once wrote: “there are two worlds – I come from the other”. SAVED! is a practical example of what that means, in all its glory and terror. It’s immaculate and scarring.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today