Lingua Ignota’s Caligula is the follow-up to 2017’s All Bitches Die, an inconceivably bellicose album of five antagonistic songs. All Bitches Die is brimming with raw emotion and evocative imagery, so it’s incredible to hear that front-woman Kristin Hayter has even more of that all-consuming anger left to fill an entirely new album. Caligula makes you feel as though you are enduring everything firsthand. A set of confrontational and unorthodox song structures, blown out expressions of resentment fit for black metal, and the juxtaposition of crude static shrieks and classically arranged vocal parts atop emotive piano playing. Though I’ve yet to grow weary with All Bitches Die, Caligula satiates needs that were unknown to me before. A need to hear my own inner angers being torn from the throat of another. Overwhelming grief and scathing bitterness thickly hangs from the notes Hayter screams into dull air. Her highly incensed and devastatingly detailed lyrics make you so much more than a listener; you’re a witness to this barbaric assault of vowels and sounds. Caligula is a forceful invitation, a threat, to bow down to Hayter’s unending night.
“So will you join me?”
Caligula begins with an enthralling and deceptively calm orchestral warm-up. “FAITHFUL SERVANT FRIEND OF CHRIST” is a ruse, if you will. A false sense of safety before the harsh realities of “an eye for an eye” set in. Hayter’s layered vocals are undoubtedly going to send a troop of icebound shivers marching lockstep throughout your frail, wretched body. If you have allowed yourself to succumb to this beautiful deceit, then you may believe the songs to follow are as easily digestible as this one. “DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR” is a call to arms. An uneasy taunting of light fingers easing up and down upon the lowest end of the piano. Hayter’s voice creeps out as a low pleading, a despondent creeping through the vocal line on all fours.
“How can you doubt me now?”
Hayter aims her lyrics at someone who will never be free from her grip of retaliation. Her words of torment build up into irate screams for the assistance of Satan.
“Satan! Satan! Satan, get beside me!”
There’s a pulsing heaviness to the song that brings forth such strong feelings of anticipation and dread. Then everything is stripped away except for terror-inducing layered vocals and a beat that uproots everything in its wake. This is when the short-of-breath anxiety kicks in. This is standing at the hellmouth like a lame, incapacitated cattle awaiting his turn in line to the slaughterhouse. This is fretfully waiting to be dragged down within the gaping jaws. This is the inability to know exactly when your feeble, debilitated ankles will be seized. This song is utterly horrifying, and possibly one of my favorites found upon this album. “BUTCHER OF THE WORLD” is anthemic. Unnerving. Otherworldly. Plaintive horns hang in the air for a subtle, haunting lead up to Hayter’s throat tearing screams. This is Hayter’s rules of an eye for an eye with her lyrics of “May another steal what you stole.” The second half of this song is slightly less abrasive (in sound, but not in spirit), and just a bit ethereal with the echoing rise and fall of delicately placed notes. Beautiful, but there is no kindness found here. Booming low end placed between Hayter’s caustic jabs and a twinkling piano that leaps jauntily like a ballet dancer makes up most of the first half of “MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE.” What follows is devolving chaos. Crashing cymbals, words of collapse, and dramatic vocals. Songs like “FRAGRANT IS MY MANY FLOWERED CROWN” pulls you in with its tenderly played piano and sweetly sung vocals. This song makes you feel safe from the incessant conflict that has ensued prior to this piece. The gentleness of the sound is just a facade though, for the lyrics that lie within this song are anything but gentle. “IF THE POISON WON’T TAKE YOU MY DOGS WILL” is thrust into your head-space without warning. It’s a gentle manipulation. A subtle persuasion.
“Aileen, I’ll only say this once. I am the best friend you’ll ever have. All this is meaningless without me.”
This song is rather simplistic, but Hayter’s voice is undeniably powerful and carries the light use of instrumentation along. “DAY OF TEARS AND MOURNING” picks up the pace with the an organ introduction then followed by the use of shocking, incessant drumming gnashing right into your soft skull. “SPITE ALONE HOLDS ME ALOFT” begins with haunting piano notes that ring out until lost to dampened spaces. This song makes you feel as though you are safely floating between Hayter’s airy notes. But then your safety is torn away when the screams enter the space. The light vocals are a dying candle’s light. Desperately trying to keep from being snuffed out, desperately trying to keep from being left alone with the shadows in the dark. The drums that are introduced close to the five minute mark dramatically enhance this song into something to be feared, only to be layered upon with the repeated, “Spite. Spite alone holds me aloft.” The drums drop out to give way to a striking chorus of “Kill them all.” Bringing Lingua Ignota‘s operatic vision to a painfully dramatic close is “I AM THE BEAST,” a near 8 minutes of berating choruses of noise and painful begging. The last words sung are “Praise me.” And praise you I shall. Caligula by Lingua Ignota is a phenomenal work of darkness that strives to shed light on real life horrors, and I believe it is a job well done.
Recommendation: Caligula will leave you breathlessly clinging to the very edge of your seat and your pathetic traitors at the edge of your sharpened sword. These 11 songs are equally suffocating and liberating. Already evocative lyrics made so much more powerful when ripped through the throat of Kristin Hayter. Hayter’s voice is a single thread of blood red. Capable of being stretched taut with concise precision, manipulated into knots, or layered to build up a vibrant tapestry displaying a scene of dismay and unrest. The time of tribulation is upon us, so “will you join me?”