Ever since their 2014 EP The Doubt (Flenser) garnered serious attention and wowed underground audiences, Kristina Esfandiari’s King Woman have had an air about them that something special was on the way. Esfandiari’s brutally honest lyrical content and her harrowing delivery combined with equally morose doom and a plethora of wider influences proved incredibly exciting. With the release of full debut Created In the Image Of Suffering(Relapse), it turns out that they had previously only hinted at the quality to come.
Right down to the album’s title, once again the sentiment is brimming with the exceptionally hellacious experiences of Esfandiari; and as the digital album begins with an exclusive track which consists of the title repeated on a loop with increasing despair shows, this won’t prove a listen for the faint hearted. Esfandiari’s delivery proves a clear standout moment throughout, with her unique vocal tones and a wide range that veers from hazy, dreamlike and delicate to sparring use of banshee screams on the likes of ‘Deny’, which exceptionally capture the sense of unmatched anguish and bleakness of her lyrics.
Musically King Woman offer strong variety as well. With a strong foundation in gloomy and ethereal doom rock, which more than matches up to its subject matter in grave terms, whilst also revealing elements of near drone dissonance in the likes of the aforementioned ‘Deny’ and ‘Hem’. Even moments approaching shoegaze appear, comparative tranquillity with losing its murk; and perhaps encompassing Esfandiari’s sense of spirituality (which is also very evident in the albums closing church hymn bars, which prove no less unsettling).
The unmatched brutality of Esfandiari’s life is a huge subject matter; experiences that are vital to the album’s sonic palette and of course its subject matter. From such troubling circumstances however, Created In the Image Of Suffering is a hypnotic and spellbinding piece of work that proves both a captivating and truly vexing listen which continuously reveals further nuance throughout. It may take a couple of plays to begin to truly appreciate, but it soon proves to be most special.