King Woman’s 2014 debut EP, Doubt, showcased the wraithlike vocals of Kristina Esfandiari, who exorcised the demons of her Christian fundamentalist upbringing and questioned love and life across four shoegaze-infused doom rock songs. Musically, King Woman’s full-length debut for Relapse refines Doubt’s rough edges, sounding heavier in tone but also more spectral and nuanced thanks to the band’s improved dynamics, as well as Jack Shirley’s (Deafheaven, Bosse-de-Nage) complementary recording.
Utopia sea-saws with a hulking central riff, Deny matches Ides Of Gemini’s funereal march, while Shame and Hierophant are equally downcast, introspective and heartrending – just as doom should be. Kristina’s enviable vocal abilities are, again, the showpiece of each song, her unusual voice proving gritty yet delicate, and double-tracked here to hit the sweet spot between both textures. The grungy Worn continues to mine Kristina’s oppressive childhood for catharsis; in fact, you can feel genuine deep-set pain, anger and spiritual distress throughout this fascinating debut, which culminates with the bluesy, PJ Harvey-esque hymnal, Hem.