In her previous incarnation as Lingua Ignota, Kristin Hayter released several jaw-dropping records, each one an uncompromising exploration of the singer’s own personal traumas. Not unreasonably, she eventually concluded that tethering her artistic identity to all that darkness and terror was probably unhealthy. Thus, one of heavy music’s most idiosyncratic voices would be reborn as Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter: a new persona for a radical change of musical focus.
Although littered with sonic subterfuge, Saved! is, in essence, a gospel record. An exercise in seeking salvation through the ecstasy of religious fervour, it strips away most of the excoriating noise of the Lingua Ignota years, revealing the true depth and breadth of Kristin’s extraordinary voice over swampy, treated pianos. I’m Getting Out While I Can is a gently confounding entry point. As the audio degrades in real time – a purposeful act of self-sabotage – her tangibly sincere vocal refuses to be bowed by the chaos and grows more zealous and soulful as the song progresses. Similarly raw and sonically sketchy, All Of My Friends Are Going To Hell is feverish, broken blues, drawn from treacly, theological swamps, while the stunning I Will Be With You Always is a distant cousin of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’s The Mercy Seat, that song’s bruised, smouldering fatalism replaced with tortured defiance in the face of doomed love. Elsewhere, the bluegrass jig Precious Lord, Take My Hand and Old Testament rabble-rouser There Is Power In The Blood are brief passages that fulfil a skewed, interstitial role, and May This Comfort And Protect You is an austere hymn rendered in ragged, Tom Waits-like tones.
Admittedly, the closing How Can I Keep From Singing poses quite the challenge. An eight-minute gospel dirge, it is haunted by the sound of Kristin “speaking in tongues” – an emblem of religious ecstasy that is extremely unsettling to witness.