The press release for the new record from San Francisco doom metal collective King Woman describe their sound as a “surrealistic Black Sabbath fronted by Mazzy Star”. Fair enough, and upon first listen the band’s earth shattering drone, produced by Jack Shirley, and mesmerizing vocal presentation evoke just that. But digging deeper into “Created In The Image Of Suffering” proves it to be much greater than the sum of its parts, possibly the most emotionally captivating declaration I’ve heard since Deafheaven’s 2015 masterpiece “New Bermuda”.
The journey at the center of “Created In The Image Of Suffering” is one fraught with peril, of wounded, hard won triumph. Not growled or barked as in most music this “heavy” (both in sound and subject matter), vocalist Kristina Esfandiari’s tormented proclamations are instead delivered sweetly and softly, in direct contrast with the devastating intent therein and the thunderous sonic cacophony at her back.
That’s perhaps, the most remarkable aspect of King Woman’s oeuvre, the juxtaposition of Esfandiari’s mesmerizing vocal beauty elucidating the heartbreaking ugliness and ultimate helplessness endemic in the human condition. Many of my favorite artists whose work is equally stirring, Converge, the aforementioned Deafheaven, KW’s current tourmates Oathbreaker, provide catharsis to counterbalance their more depressive passages with raw hardcore aggression, but not so with King Woman.
Here we’re meant to wallow in the suffering, with only the lumbering behemoth of Esfandiari’s bandmates’ crushing doom aptitude to accompany the listener as hope capsizes into true nothingness. No release, no escape, no action movie fight scene to best our tormentors, only an endless procession of fear and dread. This is a doom record you’ll feel deep into the recesses of your soul. Powerful, bracing and impactful, “Created In The Image Of Suffering” is a genre redefining statement not to be taken lightly.