Bay Area by-way-of NYC musician Kristina Esfandiari is building quite a name for herself these days. Whether you know her from the fuzzed-out doom of King Woman, or from her softer solo work in Miserable, there’s a good chance you’ve listened to her distinctive voice, even if you haven’t realized it. Now it’s time for that wave of recognition to reach a new peak with King Woman’s debut full length Created in the Image of Suffering, which sees the band double down on the heaviness and melancholic beauty of their past body of work.
King Woman’s music is simple, but highly effective. Created in the Image of Suffering consists of eight songs of plodding melancholy that combine fuzzy guitars, thick bass, and pounding drums with huge, mournful melodies. Despite the simplicity of the music, the musicians here are no slouches, and the end result is vast and expressive. The condensed fury of these bouts of doom are a refreshing change of pace from the long-form doom metal I usually frequent, yet even the 8+ minute songs never feel overly drawn out, especially “Hierophant,” the album’s mid-point and undoubtedly its highlight. The less-is-more composition style allows for everything on Suffering to be to the point.
The focal point of this album is Esfandiari’s vocals, which serve as the mortar that holds the wall of sound together. Soaked in reverb and often multi-tracked, they fill any remaining space left over by the instrumentation and give emotional guidance to the songs. The processing of the vocals unfortunately can sometimes make the lyrics hard to discern, but the overall aesthetic choice fits the album perfectly, and commands one to give this album their full attention to get the most out of the experience.
Created in the Image of Suffering is the genesis of the sound King Woman has been working towards over the course of several demos. Heavy, brooding, and hauntingly beautiful, this is an album I know I’ll be giving a lot of attention to this year, and it’s definitely worth your time.