The first time I heard the name King Woman was when they along with fellow support act Wax Idols jumped ship on a Pentagram tour due to less than savoury comments attributed to legendary front man and former major supporter of the agricultural poppy industry Bobby Liebling. Whatever the truth of the assorted stories floating around, it is a shame that this is what most know the band for. Fortunately King Woman have produced their debut full length release ‘Created In The Image of Suffering’ through the ever reliable Relapse Records, and they can get on with cementing their reputation through their music.
Whilst rooted in the Doom genre, a sound that the deep tones of the guitars and dragging drum beats, King Woman should appeal to fans far outside that limited pigeon hole, the unique vocals of Kristina Esfandiari lending a dream like quality that makes ‘Created In The Image of Suffering’ stand out from the crowd. ‘Citios’ opens my digital version of the album, a ceremonial chant of the album title to summon forth the music that starts with ‘Utopia’, a number that for a few seconds sounds like every feedback laden doom track you’ve ever heard before the vocals waft in ethereally on a cloud of psychedelia. Often the lyrics are so laconically delivered that the words are lost, and instead Esfandiari’s vocal chords become another instrument, building on the hypnotic loops of the music to lure the listener into the trippy delights of the album.
‘Deny’ continues in this same fashion, a haunting voice drifting through the sonic ocean of concussive drums and crashing riffs, a track that ends all too soon by being cut off with the wall of fuzz opening of ‘Shame’. However, it is mid album that the band really shines, ‘Hierophant’ taking the music into a far gentler, but no less powerful territory, the layered vocals coming through at their clearest, yet most mesmerising, the jangling guitars and impassioned pleading lyrics lending an art rock sound that could easily draw in the sort of listener who would run a mile at the idea of listening to Doom. Hell, if ‘Hierophant’ were secretly packaged as being by another act without any Metal links, the NME crowd would be lapping it up and demanding the band played “Glasto”, such is the undeniable beauty of the track.
Those with Gothic leanings will see their tastes catered to with the darkness of ‘Worn’ whilst the echoing strings of ‘Manna’ add a new and even more melancholic element to the delivery of the band. Rounding off the surprisingly short album is ‘Hem’, tribal drum beats dominating the breadth of the eight plus minutes, bludgeoning aside even the heavy guitar lines that try to muscle in halfway though, their brutish heaviness contrasting with and highlighting the delicate yet unbowed vocals, all before the album fades out with the closing lines of a discordant church revival hymn.
Listening to ‘Created In The Image of Suffering’ time and again doesn’t diminish the delicate beauty of the album, and King Woman can be rightly proud of what they have achieved so far. Truly this album should shake off whatever image may have been formed by those who knew the band only from the press headlines and rumours, and allow their music to be their true expression.