PICK OF THE WEEK: King Woman emerge as first vital new band of year on dark, scarred ‘Doubt’

King WomanIt’s obviously still really early in the year, and we’re bound to have a ton of new bands emerge and make serious impacts on our lives. Our first one has come its way courtesy of a stunning debut EP that is soul-shaking and completely intoxicating.

King Woman is driven by Kristina Esfandiari (of Miserable and formerly of the criminally underappreciated Whirr), whose soulful, husky, expressive voice is one you cannot possibly ignore no matter how hard you try. But why would you do that? The first time I heard this band’s first full EP “Doubt,” it was late in the evening after a strenuous day of work when all I really wanted to do was relax. Funny enough, these four songs did the total opposite, turning on the emotions and making me sit at attention because of what I was hearing. In my ears and coursing through my brain was a serving of doom, noise, shoegaze, and rock that was mixed together perfectly and made me want to get caught up in every moment of this thing. I had heard a bit about the band before I experienced the album, and I knew Esfandiari’s work fronting Whirr. But nothing could prepare me for the experience I had. I was in a state of complete submission.

King Woman coverAs for Esfandiari, this EP not only was a major creative step forward for King Woman, it also was a way for her to try to shed the pressure of her Christian origins and upbringing, a subject matter that hits pretty close to my heart as well (though not to the degree to which it impacted her). She saw the band and the music she and King Woman create as a form of therapy for her to deal with and try to make sense of the oppressive religious upbringing she experienced. She also focused on other dark, troubling topics such as rejection by family members and friends once she chose to turn her back on religion, abuse, sex, metaphysics, and many other topics that she pours her heart and soul into. Even if you don’t pay close attention to the words or have trouble making them out, as the dark, fuzzy production sometimes prevents, you cannot avoid the sadness and pain embedded in these songs, because they burst from Esfandiari’s words.

King Woman had offered up a couple of smaller releases before the “Doubt” EP came together (I consider them “new” because they’re really coming to major public attention now in case you feel like picking hairs with the headline). Formerly a project entirely Esfandiari’s, she decided to recruit other players once the project got back off the ground and landed guitarist Colin Gallagher and drummer Joey Raygoza, both of whom she grew up with, as well as bassist Sky Madden. The music they create is intoxicating, heavy (both physically and psychologically), often sweepingly beautiful, and always effective. While only four tracks at under 20 minutes, it’s still some of the most impactful, heart-whipping collections of music so far in 2015.

“Wrong” opens the record in a storm of noise that’s infiltrated by guitar buzz. Esfandiari’s vocals float over top like a ghost, permeating the senses and adding chilling lines such as, “Fill this place with fear,” that has a greater impact knowing what this record is all about. The song keeps building layers of tumult before it finally dissolves in feedback and static. “King of Swords” is a showstopper, with a doom-infested, mournful atmosphere, where Esfandiari wails, “No love … Love is gone,” as if it’s tearing her essence apart. The track is immersed in murky power, as the music moves along at a calculated pace, and the singing keeps gripping you and making you face the sadness welling up like a flood. Esfandiari keeps repeating her cries, making for a mesmerizing, gut-wrenching experience. “Burn” is a little different, adding some breeze into the picture and even sounding like something off a classic 4AD album. Then guitars ring out like a siren and keep piercing on a loop, with a whirling feeling created by the music, Esfandiari’s vocals spilling forth, and a foggy sentiment meeting up with the track’s final rumbles. Closer “Candescent Soul” has guitars crackling and crumbling slowly, the singing coming in softer and more delicate, and a haze hanging in the air above you. The last moments are cloudy and gazey, with the record’s spirit vanishing and you left standing breathless.

King Woman certainly have arrived in a huge way, and Esfandiari is an artist who I want to follow with great interest. While it’s sad to think of the torment she had to go through to get to the point where she created these songs, the art itself is exemplary and incredible to hear, and maybe the material on “Doubt” can help other people get through the same issues. This is a band that cannot be overhyped, because they’re massively impressive and a true gift to music. I can’t wait to hear a full-length record from this band, as it seems like King Woman only are scratching the surface of their ocean of potential.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/KNGWMN

To buy the album, go here: http://store.theflenser.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://theflenser.com/

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