LINGUA IGNOTA is the moniker representing classically trained multi-instrumentalist Kristin Hayter. More accurately, LINGUA IGNOTA is free-flowing art expressing the most painful of emotions. LINGUA IGNOTA self-released a pair of albums in 2017 — "Let the Evil of His Own Lips Cover Him" and "All Bitches Die" — the latter of which was re-issued by Profound Lore Records. Now in 2019, the label is releasing Hayter's third album, "Caligula", an effort that is emotionally intense to the point that it's almost unbearable.
The source material driving Hayter isn't for the faint of heart. Hayter references the brutal reality of her own domestic abuse. There's a candid element that reveals frailty that ironically proves the depth of her bravery. Hayter is bold, pointed and angry. And the sermon rolls off Hayter's tongue with dramatic flair captured by soaring, operatic vocals and tortured blackened screams, most saliently evident on "DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR". In terms of musical composition, "Caligula" finds LINGUA IGNOTA all over the map but not without purpose. The drastically disparate elements — including everything from bleak folk and black metal flourishes to elaborate orchestration, stuttering trip hop beats, and pummeling metal madness — are channeled together into a cohesive whole that's subsequently synthesized and spit out like a piercing, shard of glass.
"Caligula" is about the ongoing, contemporary and seemingly never-ending horror of violence against women. It is couched in historical narrative but driven primarily by the subtext of Hayter's own unfortunate experiences. It's about introspection and understanding as much as it is about lashing back. There is an immediacy to the angst that's almost tangible.
"Caligula" isn't far removed from "All Bitches Die", as Hayter's powerful classical music-styled vocals are bookended by heart-wrenching screams and howls. The bleak industrial flavor is dialed back compared to what was at the forefront on "All Bitches Die", however — further highlighting Hayter's world class singing that at times transforms into the suffocating gasps of someone spitting out a final, dying breath.
"Caligula" is larger than life and more ambitious than anything Hayter has done before. What Hayter strove to achieve is admirable, to be sure. No one can doubt the value that it surely offers her and other victims of domestic abuse in terms of catharsis, but as a piece of art, it seems excessively epic and lengthy. The off-the-wall nightmare that she paints is provocative, yet the impact becomes stale and redundant with further iterations the deeper one travels through the album.
There is no doubt that "Caligula" is a gripping experience that instantly engages with its listeners. It's a more potent version of "All Bitches Die". But with that said, again, the impact is diluted due to the relative sense of repetition. Regardless, the undeniably therapeutic album is powerful and worthy of recognition for straying from the regular templates of extreme music.