King Woman's Celestial Blues: from understated elegance to skull-rattling thunderclap

San Francisco’s atmospheric doom voyagers King Woman extend their singular vision with second album Celestial Blues

King Woman
(Image: © Relapse Records)

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Kristina Esfandiari is a force of nature, responsible for a bewildering array of projects that are sonically distinct yet unified by her singular voice and worldview. While things have been relatively quiet in the King Woman camp since 2017’s masterful Created In The Image Of Suffering, her heaviest band’s latest shows that there’s been no rest, only growth.

Like a savage, entirely untameable counterpart to labelmates True Widow, King Woman draw from doom, slowcore, shoegaze and grunge to create something other and apart, capable of flickering from understated elegance to skull-rattling thunderclap in the time it takes to draw breath. 

The album’s title track sets out its stall with deceptive quietness and even more deceptive fragility, luring the unsuspecting listener in like the honey- slicked throat of a carnivorous plant. Elsewhere, Morning Star begins like a dark lullaby but conceals percussion that will hammer you flat; the propulsive Coil almost sounds like 90s alterna-metal by way of PJ Harvey; and Boghz deploys a strange, muttered chant that gives way to world-razing heaviness and melodies that soar on ragged, leathery wings. 

To bear witness to it is like seeing some strange, deadly, beautiful creature pinned out and peeled back layer by layer, and while comparisons might teeter on the tip of the tongue – Come, Swans, Will Haven, Mazzy Star, Oxbow – they’re less informed by sound than vibe, outlook and aberrant individualism.

Despite the lush, immersive sound and immediate impact, Celestial Blues is an album that writhes with riddles and enigmas – dense with biblical allegory and dripping with sorrow, guilt, sensuality and a hard-won sense of redemption. It’s a raw and frighteningly powerful piece of work, and while this is exactly what we might expect from King Woman, it’s testament to the band’s skill, vision and devastating artistry that with each listen they’re capable of razing your world afresh.

Celestial Blues is out July 30 via Relapse.