July has a theme for me – it is called “Hera needs to grapple with religion in mind, body, and spirit.”
After writing about fascinations with cults of personality (mind) and about finding salvation when realizing your regret (body), King Woman comes in and proceeds to absolutely wreck me spiritually with the blistering rage and experimental doomgaze of Celestial Blues, an album that follows from where their debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, ended. I have not stopped talking about this band since I found them in 2016, and CITIOS cemented my love for them, as I have never felt so seen by the vitriol Kris and co. spat towards religion and its inherent hypocrisy. To this day, religion follows me, especially due to how I choose to live and approach the decisions I have made in my life. As a lapsed Catholic and having grown up in a somewhat conservative Christian cult-like environment, I have come to understand that the things I choose to align with are seen as wrong by those who both choose to ignore what’s going around them and embody a false sense of morality that they want to pass along to their flock. Let’s discuss.
CITIOS was a personal album for me – it gave me a space to reckon with how I was perceived and how I dealt with a somewhat religious expectation from my family – and Celestial Blues continues in that regard, giving me the space to, once again, reckon with who I am today and how I can grapple with the emotional burdens I sometimes carry.
“I have been through a lot of different experiences in the past four years than when I first started writing… And I’ve also had to work through a lot of my, because a lot of the key themes of King [Woman] are religion, spirituality, things I’ve had to work through, that have traumatized me, and I was very angry before, but now I find that things that used to really get underneath my skin just don’t bother me anymore. When you get older, you give less of a fuck, things that used to make you so angry just don’t even matter anymore.” (context)
I could spend hours talking about how King Woman have created an album that fully continues to embody the rage of finding that everything you knew is a lie, and how the experimental and atmospheric doom they have chosen to employ makes that rage palpable and incredibly poignant. I could also talk about how there is also so much melancholy and doubt that comes with grappling with making the “right” decisions – did you make the right choice when you chose to leave everything behind? Will your family – your support system – continue to love you because you have finally taken the time to figure aspects about yourself that may have lain dormant? It is obvious that both CITIOS and Celestial Blues are highly personal albums for Kris, a catalyst for much-needed catharsis. However, while CITIOS was an album that was cloaked in rage and doubt, an album seeped in vitriol, Celestial Blues is an album that, while is still seeped in that vitriol and rage, has a more mature outlook, temporally removed in reflection. Time has allowed for healing, for finding out who you are, and how you move in certain spaces may decree how people will continue to perceive you. After all, you are the only person who can deal with their own trauma, and how you deal with it is an entirely personal experience.
King Woman’s blistering usage of heavy sound and atmospheric instrumentality allows Celestial Blues to not only come off as retrospective and cathartic, but it also gives it emotional weight. Like in CITIOS, Celestial Blues is steeped in images of melancholy, sadness, and suffering, but it also has the added bonus of making use of that suffering by having a sense of sympathy. Here, King Woman ultimately asks for a plea for closure, as it’s evident that time has healed some of the many wounds that came off after CITIOS. The music is morose, dark, and, at times, gritty, implying that the band gave it all in order to make this album. A piece of flesh was exchanged for the heaviness and the newer influences one will experience when listening to the album for the first time, and it shows.
Celestial Blues is a fantastic follow-up to CITIOS, a continued step for a band whose music transcends art and speaks to all of us within society’s fringes. This album continues to win me over with each play, and I find myself singing out of both joy and of catharsis, both for what has occurred and for what the future will bring.
Celestial Blues will be available July 30 on Relapse Records. For more information on King Woman, visit their Facebook page.
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