LINGUA IGNOTA’s album All Bitches Die left a huge impression on me. Had I reviewed it, I would have given it the full mark. 10/10. Why? Because finally. Finally, there was a woman in extreme music fighting back against misogyny in a way no one had done before, and fighting back with all her might. Finally, there was a woman saying ‘It stops here. No further. You did unspeakable things to me. You hurt me, and for that I will kill you, but first, I will make you suffer.’ Never since Bathory named themselves after the blood countess Elizabeth Bathory has extreme music been presented with a more frightening image of a woman.
The music that went with this vision of an avenging angel of torture and death was nothing less exceptional. It was monumental, gigantic, chilling and terrifying. There were vocals ranging from operatic singing to black metal screeching and rasping, accompanied by reverberating organ music and minimalistic piano parts. Additional noises, like the clanging of bells and the buzzing of distortions sounds, helped to create a disturbing atmosphere, and everything was topped off with pounding, colossal percussion. On Woe To All (On The Day Of My Wrath), the album’s first track, you can literally hear evil approaching in all its unconquerable grandeur. The album’s music made my hair stand on end. It gave me shivers. LINGUA IGNOTA spoke in an unknown language, indeed, in a language hitherto unheard. In my book, this deserves the full mark.
CALIGULA, LINGUA IGNOTA’s new LP, continues where All Bitches Die left off, but it takes the lyrical themes of abuse, trauma, survival, and revenge to a higher level. The perspective changes from personal experience to universal truth, and the music follows suit. Named after Caligula, the Roman emperor whom the majority of historical sources portray as exceptionally cruel, sadist, and prone to excesses, or down right insane, the album tells the story of a transformation, the story of an abuse victim turned blood tyrant. One of history’s most infamous figures is used as a comparison, someone who had a god-like status and pretty much unlimited power.
Industrial and electronic elements, a defining part on All Bitches Die, have been turned down a bit, and opera-like elements turned up. CALIGULA is Wagnerian in scope and sound. This is already audible in the album’s opening number: Lush and pompous, featuring multiple vocals tracks, this a somewhat off-sounding, modern-day interpretation of a “Heil, Caesar!”. I say off-sounding, because you can already hear in the first track that something is not quite right. All in all, the album primarily reminded me of opera, but there are also numerous pieces of music who evoke film scores and pictures of epic, historic dramas, and there are also many connections established to music associated with the Roman-Catholic church.
Kristin Hayter, the woman behind LINGUA IGNOTA, is an abuse survivor – hence the lyrical focus, its rawness and honesty – and a classically trained vocalist and piano player. Piano and vocals are the most important elements in her music, aided, as already mentioned above, by pounding percussion and chill-inducing noise. The music primarily portrays two stances: heart-breaking vulnerability and excessive, violent rage. Two personae come to speak in LINGUA IGNOTA’s music: the victim and the avenger.
The world, as portrayed on CALIGULA is black and white, absolutist. There is only good or evil, God or Satan. There are no grey areas, nothing in between. This kind of divide follows the Christian faith, especially the Roman-Catholic variant, which is another big source of inspiration for Kristin Hayter, philosophically as well as musically. However, the interesting claim here being made is that the potential for evil is present in everybody, latent in every person, in men and women alike, and that violent trauma will trigger it.
The story begins with the Faithful Servant Friend Of Christ who over the course of the album becomes the Butcher Of The World, the Fucking Deathdealer and in the end states I Am The Beast.
Every line of lyrics on CALIGULA is worth hearing and pondering. Some lyrics are prayerlike, for example those on May Failure Be Your Noose, wishing every thinkable evil to the perpetrator. Others speak of motivation, and the fuel that keeps the victim going: “I don’t eat / I don’t sleep”, Spite alone keeps me aloft. But apart from spite, rage and hatred, there is also great sadness and tragedy to be heard on the album, as evident in a heart-breaking line from the last track: “All I want is boundless love, all I know is violence.” Last but not least, the enigma of the abuser’s motivation is also touched, who, also tragically, appears to have dug his own grave with his chosen course of action, because “Who will love you if I don’t? / Who will fuck you if I won’t?”
LINGUA IGNOTA is the most original and uncompromising female act in extreme or avant-garde music since Diamanda Galas, challenging pre-existing notions of femininity, and Kristin Hayter an artist on the height of her creative power. CALIGULA, just like All Bitches Die, is an album not to be missed. It is certainly one of the albums of 2019, and it will probably top my list.