Redemption is a central part of many religions. A person is either born into sin or has fallen from grace and must repent to find the true path, often rewarded in the afterlife.
Celestial Blues, the monumental new album by King Woman, rejects punishment and transcendence as something supernatural, and instead, casts them as Earthly occurrences.
Religious themes have been central in King Woman’s lyrics since the band began as a solo project of Kristina Esfandiari. From Doubt EP to their first full-length Created In The Image of Suffering in 2017, Esfandiari pulled from her ultra-religious upbringing to address the trauma she lived through a combination of doom metal and a dark take on dream pop. The groundwork was laid to deliver a true masterpiece.
As hinted by the cover art and titles like “Morning Star” and “Paradise Lost,” Celestial Blues deals with the story of Lucifer, the fallen angel who rebelled against God. However, the album is not a musicalization of the tale; rather, Esfandiari uses it to find meaning about personal conflicts that she addresses in each song.
Musically, the band — made up by Esfandiari, guitarist Peter Arendorf and drummer Joseph Raygoza — conjures an operatic doom metal symphony that contains elements of shoegaze, folk and devotional music for Esfandiari’s vocals. Her hushed voice shows incredible range, from beautiful whispers to driving screams. You don’t need to read the lyrics or have any background info to feel the emotional punch behind each of the album’s tracks.
Although Esfandiari’s vocals remain the most arresting aspect of King Woman, Celestial Blues pulls everything together to make an exceptional album. Everything is arranged for maximum impact, employing loud-soft dynamics, breaking from verse-chorus-verse structures and relying on repetition.
In many ways, “Morning Star” is the quintessential album track, with Esfandiari’s voice surrounded by multi-tracked vocal harmonies as riffs crash around them.
The introspective “Entwined” casts heaven as a place where light and darkness are in perpetual strife. This is soundtracked by the band’s slow rumble.
“Golgotha” is a prayer for the damned that musically ebbs and flows, while “Ruse” makes the act of falling in and out of love an apocalyptic experience.
The seventh track, “Psychic Wound” explores longing to the point of codependency with rage-inducing fits.
The dichotomy at the heart of Celestial Blues can be found in the opening and closing songs. The title track celebrates a manifestation of the divine while “Paradise Lost” is a song of defeat, as the lyrics deal with loss.
By ending the album in a defeated tone, one can think of Celestial Blues as a dark album; however, by playing the album over again, hope can be found again; where the longing for salvation is most apparent. The cycle of sin and salvation continues.
Essential tracks: “Morning Star,” “Golgotha” and “Psychic Wound”
Prerequisites: King Woman’s Created In The Image of Suffering, Lingua Ignota’s Caligula and My Dying Bride’s The Angel and the Dark River