Up until the late 19th Century, the practice of bloodletting – the process of withdrawing blood from patients in the hope of curing illness – was common place; with ailments viewed as a consequence of an excess of blood (or “humours”) in the body. The practice is, of course, completely unscientific, but the need for release remains very real. Lingua Ignota’s (real name: Kristin Hayter) fourth LP ‘Sinner Get Ready’ is the ultimate sound of release; of letting go of trauma, of expectations, and, at times, of letting go of hope and even your own sanity.
‘Sinner Get Ready’ is, by design, a thoroughly disconcerting listen; the opener ‘The Order of Spiritual Virgins’ (stylised in all caps, like all the tracks here) is a 9 minute epic; complete with cries of “hide your children, hide your husbands” and “sickness finds a way”. Across the track, elongated moments of silence are punctuated unexpectedly by cacophonous arrangements that amount ultimately to the musical equivalence of a jump scare. The following track ‘I Who Bend The Tall Grasses’ offers little respite from the sheer noise and harshness of the opener; at one point, Hayter is left pleading with God to “kill” someone; her voice reaching an almost feral shriek.
As it’s title suggests, ‘Sinner Gets Ready’ is an unapologetically religious album, but it’s one that transcends the connotations that usually come along with that term. It’s presentation of God is refreshingly, and alarmingly, stark and, utterly representative of the violence depicted within the Old Testament; God may be the source of ultimate salvation, but he’s also capable of splitting open and nailing down his own creation. While Hayter’s devotion to God across her fourth studio album is unquestionable (“I bow to him alone” are the album’s final words), she does not feel the sort of unconditional, unshakeable comfort from faith that so much of Christian music attests to. ‘Many Hands’ ends with a bombshell revelation: “The Lord held me by my neck / ‘I wish things could be different’ he wept”. Here the Lord is not painted as the all-knowing being he so frequently is portrayed to be, but instead as an all-together more human figure; just as capable as the rest of us of falling prey to the fallibility of humankind (regret, remourse) as the rest of us. The final line – “I wish things could be different” – is the sort of thing that inspires entire breakdowns of faith; the idea of the Lord left hopelessly longing for change he cannot implement can feel almost unbearable for believers who look to God for reassurance and direction.
This idea of the Lord, in short, is not a reassuring one; perhaps going some way to explain the harshness and hurt at the heart of this album, but it does make for a far more interesting listening experience than most religious albums do and raises far more profound questions in the process. While most Christian music preaches easy answers to our deepest angst, ‘Sinner Get Ready’ asks of us; what should we do with the “fiery” “heart of man” that cannot be contained even by – Hayter tell us – God himself? What should we do in the face of a God unrelenting even in the face of our “extravagant” “sacrifices”?
Hayter never finds complete comfort in God across ‘Sinner Get Ready’s’ 9 tracks; on the best track here, ‘Pennsylvania Furnace’, she accepts she is destined to die alone with her dog, while even on the final track, where she declares “paradise will be mine”, she is still left with “ugliness” as her “home” and “loneliness” as her “master”. But, if Hayter never achieves Heavenly peace here, she finds something, perhaps, far more valuable and extraordinary. Scattered across ‘Sinner Get Ready’ are numerous samples of religious leaders and believers; who don’t practice what they preach, turn their back on the idea of redemption and refuse to make basic sacrifices to protect their peers. For all the album’s harsh and cacophonous noise, Hayter – with her admissions of unknowing; of human frailty and fault – creates a far more inviting religious experience than most of modern day Christianity’s loudest and most powerful voices.
Best Tracks: ‘I Who Bend The Tall Grasses’, ‘Pennsylvania Furnace’, ‘The Solitary Brethren of Ephrata’, ‘Perpetual Flame of Centralia’