There are times when people will say a record is an experience, a true expression of an artist’s vision. There will be long diatribes about how impossible it is to put what happens over the course of the album in proper context. Reviewers will go to long lengths to state how limiting the entire idea of a review is when trying to encapsulate every. damn. thing. that unfolds over the course of this “experience”. It’s like they have to bend over backwards not to offend the artist because of how daring this revelatory record is.
Fuck all of that. Kristin Hayter’s first proper release through new label Profound Lore certainly fits the classic template for the “I can’t review this, but I’ll try” bullshit, but that gives the impression that Caligula is too difficult, too challenging to describe. That’s simply not true. Caligula certainly is thought-provoking and visceral, but it’s also gorgeous and haunting. Hayter embraces a wider, more human approach to Caligula, ditching the electronic, industrial, and noise elements that permeated All Bitches Die. That doesn’t mean Lingua Ignota is any less sonically dense and dark.
Interestingly, the record feels like an opera for the oppressed and abused, anxious to reckon and wreck the power structures that have kept them down. It’s clearly a personal and profound listen, brimming with suspense and intensity. Hayter utilizes every note of her vocal range, emphasizing her melodic range more than ever, but she’s certainly not afraid to unleash some truly haunting, piercing screams, especially in the triumphant closer, “I am the Beast”. There is no shortage of oppressive, impressive noise, but those moments of chaos are dialed back in service of a record that isn’t afraid to revel in the realm of gorgeous orchestrations.
Ultimately, Caligula is a record that needs to be experienced to be believed, even if it isn’t always the easiest to take in over a single listen. Hayter’s vision of impassioned oppression and abuse is harrowing and horrifying, but the resulting record is still majestic and magical – it transports the listener into a scene where you’re witnessing the lyrics sung, shouted, and screamed at you, and it’s impossible not to be empathetic and apoplectic at what’s going on. This is wonderful stuff.