Published Feb 22, 2017Kristina Esfandiari's King Woman project has developed slowly and deliberately over the past seven years, solidifying into a full band and releasing an EP of spiralling, surreal sludge metal in 2014. Created in the Image of Suffering is their first offering since then, and it stands as one of the more unique records to come out of the Relapse camp recently. The band create a haunting, meditative atmosphere that serves as a perfect setting for Esfandiari's evocative poetry.
Like their Doubt EP, which felt painfully agnostic, this album wades through the complexities of religious belief, dogma and mysticism as they intersect with the personal. Songs like "Deny" and "Shame" grapple with issues of sickness, addiction and abuse, squaring their jarring emotional details against tough questions about hope and forgiveness.
Esfandiari's voice is as powerful and versatile as ever, standing at the centre of the band's melancholic maelstrom. She moves from emotive harmonies to smoky whispers to an anguished howl as the guitars kick up musky layers of fuzz around her on "Hierophant." A cathedral-like backdrop of reverb gives these vocal manoeuvres a gorgeous resonance that melts into the billowing instrumentation but is never completely obscured.
Unfurling gracefully over its eight tracks, this record is a grim sermon that grasps at certainty with a Sisyphean patience and resolve. Esfandiari's self-interrogations strike at listeners' hearts with an intensity that's as disquieting as it is beautiful: "Who do you think you are? You and all your suffering?" (Relapse)