On her 2018 debut All Bitches Die, Kristin Hayter, aka Lingua Ignota, introduced a truly abrasive blend of opera, neoclassical darkwave, and death industrial. From deep croons over thumping pianos to piercing screams over distorted noise-scapes, her first album covered the entire spectrum of dismality. Even more, this melodramatic hybrid was not a cheap aesthetic gimmick but rather a necessary vehicle. For, Hayter's lyrics deeply engages with the many enduring traumas that come from misogyny and domestic abuse.
Now, Hayter's second full-length CALIGULA continues her ever-evolving performance that is a resistance. Once again, she transforms shattering lamentations into empowered declarations against misogyny, while also complicating the dominant narratives of women's trauma.
CALIGULA begins with daunting, circling cellos on "FAITHFUL SERVANT FRIEND OF CHRIST". Like the mood-setting ambient drones of psychological horror film credits, the album opener establishes its impending theatrics. The overture sets a foundation of melodic and lyrical motifs, and thereafter, these motifs evolve into the nine-minute behemoth "DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR". The latter's piano progression adopts the opener's cello melody as Hayter's vocals enter intimate, fragile, and marked. However, this soon changes as her cries intensify into frantic shrieks. "How do I break you before you break me?" she screams as the piano ballad morphs into a noisy cacophony.
Hayter's use of such evolving motifs reflects the many varying manifestations of trauma. Complicating the dominant narratives of women's trauma, her stories don't suggest any linear, tertiary road to healing. Rather, her tales uncover what is often lasting and untold. As such, a song like "SORROW! SORROW! SORROW!" "is meant to speak to the ineffable quality of trauma, something my music tries to express", she told Louder. On one of her softest, most intimate songs, Hayter bares suicidal thoughts. Her lowly croons intermittently turn to polyphonic overtone singing, and she pleads, "Disperse me to the air / That I may not be defiled by any other earthly thing." Alone with the piano, she voices the unfortunate reality of falling desperate for peace, "about abdicating your body to find freedom".
In these ways, CALIGULA is not exactly about healing trauma, but rather, it tries to better voice the enduring effects of it. There is no simple way of letting go, and Hayter unapologetically expresses her lasting anger throughout the album. On "BUTCHER OF THE WORLD", a symphony of industrial noise and Hayter's most throat-expending screams overwhelm the liturgic organs. Her distorted, piercing wails declare, "May your days be few / May another steal / Steal what you stole." From deep thoughts about suicide to lingering anger for the abuser, Hayter's lyrics are necessarily direct. In a society full of misogynistic perspectives and sexist structures, women are threatened to remain silent, pushing for a so-called introspective journey of healing. CALIGULA rejects this violent notion of rape culture and self-blame, loudly voicing her rightful wrath.
With more vocal force and structural spectacles than her debut, CALIGULA builds upon Hayter's already dynamic aesthetic. Her thoughtful amalgam of opera, neoclassical darkwave, and death industrial continues to produce theatrical yet still intimate pieces. But above all, Hayter's uncompromised voice tells a necessary story that contests the dominant narratives of women's trauma. Her vivid, brutal portrayal of the enduring effects of misogyny and domestic abuse strictly reveals the gruesome realities of it. CALIGULA reclaims the stories of so many women that have been silenced by misogynistic perspectives and sexist structures.