Album review: Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – SAVED!

The artist formerly known as Lingua Ignota leaves the past behind and steps forward toward the light on brilliant, haunting first outing as the Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter.

Album review: Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – SAVED!
Nick Ruskell

As Lingua Ignota, Kristin Hayter used music to express pain and process trauma. On 2017’s ALL BITCHES DIE, the songs were an uncomfortable listen, just as they were artistically compelling – unconventional and challenging, as well as the perfect broken vessel to carry such emotion. With 2019’s CALIGULA, meanwhile, she created one of the most difficult but truly expressive records of recent times, so intense it was at times hard to listen to, but again, a stunning manifestation of something genuinely troubled.

On SAVED!, having drawn a line under her former artistic outfit to perform under her clergyed-up real name, Kristin is in a different place. Where previously the darkness had felt inescapable (one of the reasons for putting Lingua Ignota to rest, it becoming too hard to have to go so deep into such memories night after night), here she says there is a very real and active search for some kind of salvation. Using heavy religious iconography, and having researched and attended gospel services as research, particularly ones involving talking in tongues, it is an album built on twisted folk-horror Americana that still features so much darkness and painful emotion, but also has a desperate hope to it that there is better to be found.

Coming straight from Lingua Ignota, one may be confused at first. There are some comparisons to be made to 2021’s SINNER GET READY, in which American folk music sat beside her usual piano, and which also featured a religious tang, but as a whole it is very much a new chapter. On I’m Getting Out While I Can, a classic, church-y piano motif sets a tone, over which Kristin proudly and with a minister’s forthrightness declares that, ‘I won’t succumb to this world full of sin.’ All Of My Friends Are Going To Hell takes an early blues slant, sounding not entirely unlike a deeply threatening version of Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz, as it unsmilingly warns of damnation, While I Will Be With You Always creates a heavy drama from its sparseness. Ditto The Poor Wayfairing Stranger, in which Kristin’s skills with a piano – both in terms of musicality and being able to create a powerful language with the instrument that one cannot learn from a teacher – is brought imposingly to the fore.

Throughout, it is curiously enrapturing. Poppy and crackly and raw, having been put onto audio tape which was then manipulated and messed with, there’s a found-footage quality to the songs. Particularly when, as How Can I Keep From Singing brings things to a close, recordings of Kristin speaking in tongues are added to the mix.

As ever, SAVED! is a genuinely haunting record from an artist whose emotional articulacy is unlike any other. Creatively, it is an inspired idea, carried off by a unique talent. Artistically – that is, as a means of expressing something from within – it brings both a feeling of overbearing dread, and an honest sense of empowerment and reaching up for something, of shedding skin in order to find comfort. Lingua Ignota may have come to an end, but the era of Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter looks set to be just as special.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Emma Ruth Rundle, Michael Gira, Jo Quail

SAVED! is released on October 20 via Perpetual Flame Ministries

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