Lingua Ignota

Sinner Get Ready

Kristin Hayter is back – and filled with righteous indignation

“Hide your children / Hide your husbands” Kristin Hayter begins Sinner Get Ready, her third album as Lingua Ignota. It’s an appropriately foreboding welcome to a record that is rife with religious messaging, spine-tingling Appalachian instrumentation, and a deeply unsettling bloodlust. “I am relentless, I am incessant, I am the ocean,” she continues on the opening track ‘The Order of Spiritual Virgins’, introducing us to the destructively pious personality and tenor of the record. “And all who dare look upon me swear eternal devotion.”

Don’t make a mistake though: Hayter is not here to preach the word of God, but instead to expose the hypocrisy of those so sanctimonious they believe themselves to be beyond sin – so far beyond, in fact, that they call for pain and death to be rained down on any who cross them or don’t follow the same beliefs as them. Hayter originally hails from California, but moved to rural Pennsylvania, in close proximity to communities who follow these beliefs and practices, to create Sinner Get Ready. Such is the dedication she has to her art and the depths of her fascination with this culture of evil theology.

Her attitude towards these people can be gleaned from her use of samples, which add a real-world anchor to a record. ‘The Sacred Linament of Judgement’ features a clip of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart weeping on live television as he confesses to sleeping with a prostitute, and later, on ‘Man Is Like A Spring Flower’, Hayter includes the sex worker’s rebuttal to his false tears. ‘The Solitary Brethren of Ephrata’ begins with a sample of a news reporter interviewing a local who refuses to take precautions against Covid because she’s “covered in Jesus’ blood”, which will protect her. However, the most thrilling exposure of these hazardous, heedless beliefs are through Hayter’s own characterisations of them.

“Glorious father intercede for me,” she commands on second track ‘I Who Bend The Tall Grasses’, singing over an organ that sucks any possible fun out of funereal, “If I can’t hide from you then neither can he.” Hayter has opted to tone down the more metal-adjacent tones and screams of her previous album Caligula, but what remains is no less spine-chilling, as she uses an array of unusual instrumentation and leaves more space for her potent, punishing, and mesmerising voice. Continuing on ‘Tall Grasses’, she dreams of ways the smiting of her enemy could happen, “Use any of your heavenly means / your golden scythe / Your holy sword / your fiery arrow studded with stars,” she sings, before her desperation for blood reaches fever pitch as she throatily, unceremoniously growls “I don’t give a fuck, just kill him! / You have to! I’m not asking.”

It’s these types of perniciously ‘righteous’ characters that infest the whole of Sinner Get Ready. Hayter uses every song to find a different way to expose the satanic desires of these people who pray for the damnation of others; those who seem to be cheering on God as he sends sinner after sinner down to Hell. Her voice is more than dexterous and commanding enough to embody both the meek, god-fearing type who cower in God’s sight, and the resolute, devout types who rejoice at the mere thought of God’s powerful punishments.

‘Many Hands’ is an example of the cruel, unforgiving tone she can adopt. Here, Hayter’s voice is piercing in its blade-like precision as it cuts through thickets of buzzing psaltery and clanging dulcimer to look coldly down on a devout follower who is desperately repenting in the unforgiving night. She’s practically spitting with disgust as she describes his pitiful state: “‘I would die for you’ / ‘I would die for you’ he wept.” This severity is returned to on ‘Repent Now Confess Now’, which is the sound of someone taking glee at the beatings bestowed by God. “The surgeon’s precision is nothing / No wound as sharp as the will of God,” she sings, her voice splitting into a multitude of Gregorian intonations like a Hell-bound choir, while picked banjo and fraying saxophone prickle like ligaments being plucked from bone.

However, the majority of Sinner Get Ready unfolds in beautiful, regal form that belies the sheer horror of the words. Lead single ‘Pennsylvania Furnace’ finds Hayter sitting behind her piano and casting her judging mind over people who can’t control their wrongful urges, sinisterly but beautifully asking “do you want to be in hell with me?” ‘The Sacred Linament of Judgement’ is built on a droning shruti box and bowed banjo, atop which Hayter plays a gorgeous piano line and praises the values of being bathed in Jesus’ blood. This image pours over into the following ‘Perpetual Flame of Centralia’, another stately piano track where she seems to be drunk on religious devotion, zealously singing that “fear is nothing when the path is righteous” while embers of mandolin flutter around the atmosphere.

Hayter saves the most accessible moments for last, almost like a reward for those who have trekked through the excruciating stories that have preceded. ‘Man Is Like A Spring Flower’ builds from spare singing to twirling, golden combination of synths, clarinets and strings as she admits “love is not enough”. Sinner Get Ready concludes with ‘The Solitary Brethren of Ephrata’, a final hymn of devotion to god and a dream of the eternal paradise that awaits, which practically sounds like a Christmas carol in its warm, loving construction.

You might wonder what right Hayter has to chastise and caricature these people, but she knows what it’s truly like to receive love and gifts from a seemingly unseeable source. Last year, she had to undergo a crucial spinal surgery that would have set her back $20,000 – a sum far beyond her financial means, especially without touring. Her manager set up a GoFundMe and explained the situation to her fans, who came out in droves to help her pay for the procedure. Add to that the countless fans who’ve connected with Hayter through her music and performances, and there’s no doubt that she knows what true, reciprocal love is. By exposing the revolting truths of these ‘devout’ people’s desires, she is obliquely giving praise to the true sources of purity and light in the world: community, charity and selflessness. Bearing this in mind just makes Sinner Get Ready even more of a towering achievement.

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