What I have always appreciated about Kristin Hayter’s work is how tightly wound the threads of emotion knit her concepts together. Like her prior work under Lingua Ignota, it’s unnerving & challenging while being strangely beautiful all at once. Hayter is like a chameleon, traversing folk, gospel, and country undertones effortlessly. Where Sinner Get Ready invoked the wrath of Christian fanatics, Saved! distills the cultish ravenous need for salvation to powerful results. Again, I am thrilled to see another stellar release from Kristin.
Kristin Hayter’s work exemplifies the notion of purging demons. Through her prior project Lingua Ignota, she pressed her classical experience into often guttural extends to paint the depths of pain, rage, and hatred that domestic & sexual abuse can bring. The last album under her prior pseudonym, Sinners Get Ready, uses pious imagery to dictate her pits of sorrow and rise out from the brink. The psychological toll of continuously performing the music that helped her process her trauma was one of the reasons she decided to retire from the Lingua Ignota moniker. In many ways, Saved! is an act of attempting to find salvation. The use of Christian hymns and iconography doubles as a greater metaphor for personal redemption after an arduous trek through a terrestrial hell. Hayter told Kerrag that she wanted to examine the many sonic practices around deliverance to make the album feel as authentic as possible:
“I became really interested in the idea of religious transcendence and using that analogy for personal healing… In the evangelical tradition of Christianity, your relationship with God is dictated by your individual experience. In Pentecostalism, for instance, you can speak in tongues, you can be healed, and you can utilise extreme, unorthodox methods to develop a relationship between yourself and God. So, I wanted to see if I could develop a direct line between myself and God. I was earnestly attempting to be saved. And to get saved.’ — Kristin Hayter via Kerrang! (2023)
We begin our journey with “I’m Getting Out While I Can.” The continuous crackle, warp, and fade of the music add to the archival, antique vibe she is aiming for. Its holy, prepared piano takes on a threatening air through this damaged folk treatment. Hayter’s call to relinquish her demons to climb the latter to heaven reaches demandingly at its listeners, “Get out, get out, get out while you can/ On Judgment Day do you know where you’ll stand/ I’m gonna sing with the celestial band/ I’m getting out, getting out while I can.” She suddenly cuts us to the rhythmic chants of tongues that seem to signify her first flood of the divine. It’s a powerful opening statement.
“All of My Friends Are Going to Hell” dials up the oppressive tone through the weighty rise and fall of the piano. Hayter only heightens the gravity of damnation through the moralistically dubious actions of those around her. What rings strong is Kristin’s urge for redemption from her past, “All of my friends are going to Hell/ None of them know from what I can tell/ I’m getting up from the place where I fell/ Jesus, please save me/ I don’t want to live like my friends/ Who are going to Hell.” I love the ragged, folk-oriented vocal style she shifts to. It gives her words that much more tension and assertion.
“There Is Power In The Blood” is an old hymn written by Lewis E. Jones, tracing its origins back to the late 1800s. Kristin opts to leave the song fully acapella. The menagerie of voices provides enough jubilance to make you feel like you are at a tent revival. Jones’s hymn originally refers to the healing power of Jesus, “There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r/ In the blood of the Lamb/ There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r/ In the precious blood of the Lamb.” Through the storyline Hayter has crafted up to this point, it feels like the light of closure has washed over, which has remedied her emotional scars.
“Idumea” is another traditional hymn originally written by Ananias Davisson and dates back to the early 1800s. In contrast to the prior song, Hayter drags us forward through the thick mire that her piano and layered vocals cast before us. All of this lays heavy importance upon the brevity of life and how those actions carry onward into the afterlife, “Soon as from Earth I go/ What will become of me?/ Eternal happiness or woe/ Must then my portion be.” It’s like a turning point in her mind of whether to continue to erode her being to hatred or ascend anew.
“I Will Be With You Always” has an almost chamber-pop sound similar to that of PJ Harvey’s White Chalk. Her withered piano and haunting vocals bleed out the poisons of her past. Kristin’s nearly chant-like melody mourns how lost she was in the haze of years of trauma, “In the night I was beset with demons/ I know all their names but cannot speak them/ Their grinning teeth split the darkness and I said: ‘I know your name, takе your teeth out of me/ Return my body to me, rеlease me, release me/ Release me, release me, release me’.” This is one of the most cathartic moments on the album. Her use of religious deliverance mimics the mental/emotional journey to healing that many who have suffered similar fates have had to tread.
Hayter takes us to the Appalachian mountains with the rustic sounds of “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” Recorded on tape, the track does conjure the often manic cult-like behaviors of these rural church communities. There is also something strangely comforting about the enthusiastic jaunt surrounding the words on being guided to the promised land, “O dear Lord, take my hand/ Lead me on, let me sta-and/ I am tired, I’m wеak, I am worn/ Through the storm, through the night/ Lead mе on to the light/ Take my hand, precious Lord/ Lead me home.” Kristin captures the gospel flavor of Thomas A. Dorsey’s origin while still shaking its listener with the ominous sides of Christian salvation.
“May This Comfort And Protect You” rings out some of the most sanctified melodies. Its fragile piano tones illuminate the room with a bright white glow. Her words sing the glories of being born again through the Lord, “O Sinner Friend, be not afraid/ Your sorrows here shall end/ Know that in death you’ll live again!/ May this comfort and protect you.” In many ways, this calls for her rebirth by taking back her given name and retiring the pain and anguish that ran thick under the Lingua Ignota moniker.
Hayter takes the traditional folk tune “The Poor Wayfaring Stranger” and gives it a new depth. Its simple arrangement allows her to pour more emotion into her performance. At times, it feels as if Kristin could weep for the tribulations she has suffered along her journey. This lifts above the murky depths once she meets the chorus about going home to freedom. I have heard several different iterations of this song, but this take has to be one of my favorites. Her emotive performance hits you deep in your core.
“Nothing But The Blood of Jesus” has a fervor that starts to cross into mania. Her loud vocals and the constant drone of the acoustic guitar bring to mind the shaking and spasming of those flooded with the holy spirit during a deliverance. The Robert Lowry original speaks to how only through Jesus can true salvation be found, “O how precious is the flow/ That makes me white as snow/ No other fount I know/ Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” It’s in this fury of sound that you begin to feel overwhelmed by grasping hands pulling at you to feel the divine. I get snake-handling church vibes through the way this song is arranged.
Kristin gives the Blind Willie Johnson original “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole” more of a traditional gospel treatment. Coming after the manic swirl of the last track, Hayter feels that much more absorbed by the need to absolve herself. She cries out her prior misgivings in a fit of emotion, “I was a gambler just like you/ I was a gambler just like you/ I was sick and I couldn’t get well/ I was sick and I couldn’t get well…/ I just touched the hem/ Just touched the hem/ Just touched the hem of His, of His garment.” At this point, she seems to be clawing at the feet of forgiveness to release herself from the pain she’s been in.
Hayter closes the album out with the spiritual hymn “How Can I Keep From Singing.” Her tired yet determined voice carries gently over the slowly driving piano melody. Underneath this comes the fevered chant in tongues which seem to almost cast out the demons that the Lingua Ignota project brought in. Through this logical shift in thematic tone from her last album comes a renewed passion that marries nicely with the song’s lyrics, “Through all the tumult and the strife/ I hear the music ringing/ It finds an echo through my soul/ How can I keep from singing?” Her pained chanting provides both a terrifying yet mystifying purger that ties up this journey through salvation she has provided us with.
What I have always appreciated about Kristin Hayter’s work is how tightly wound the threads of emotion knit her concepts together. Like her prior work under Lingua Ignota, it’s unnerving & challenging while being strangely beautiful all at once. Hayter is like a chameleon, traversing folk, gospel, and country undertones effortlessly. Where Sinner Get Ready invoked the wrath of Christian fanatics, Saved! distills the cultish ravenous need for salvation to powerful results. Again, I am thrilled to see another stellar release from Kristin. I highly recommend any listener settling in for the journey she has set you up for til the end. My overall thoughts on Saved!:
Loved it: “I’m Getting Out While I Can,” “All of My Friends Are Going to Hell,” “There Is Power In The Blood,” “Idumea,” “May This Comfort And Protect You,” “I Will Be With You Always,” “The Poor Wayfaring Stranger” & “How Can I Keep From Singing”
Liked it: “Nothing But The Blood of Jesus” & “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole”
Disliked it: None