A stellar reinterpretation of religious music
Church is a bit of a sensitive topic for a lot of people. If you grew up in the United States, chances are you’ve been to one, and even if you haven’t, you certainly know people who regularly attended at one point in their lives. The prevalence of hardline Christianity has shaped the path of this country for years, and in doing so, it has shifted the music that this produces among many artists that dwell in the U.S. While it’s easy to look towards the powerful ways this has happened, such as the pushback to gangster rap in the ‘90s and 2000s or the fear of metal during Tipper Gore’s satanic panic era, it has also shaped the music landscape in small ways. Artists like Julien Baker, King Woman and Lingua Ignota all owe their sound, and maybe even their success, to church or religion at the very least. Of all these artists, none are so willing to go toe to toe with these complex feelings as Lingua Ignota does on their latest release, SINNER GET READY.
The first and most notable influence of religion on Lingua Ignota’s music, beyond the name, is in the instrumentation throughout the album. When it isn’t incorporating noise and dissonance into the track, many of the songs are structured around a hymn-like core. For instance, “I WHO BEND THE TALL GRASSES” is a vitriolic prayer delivered to God in what appears to be an empty cathedral. The organ reverberates as the vocals grow ever more desperate and discordant. The track devolves into shouting, pleading and begging demands as the organ holds steady, making the whole affair even more unsettling.
This hymnal core tone is also found across the record in tracks like “MANY HANDS” and “MAN IS LIKE A SPRING FLOWER.” What makes the record compelling is not that it incorporates religious music, as that has been done by many an artist before. No, it is the force with which it repurposes this style of music, blending it with heavy metal. Her interpretation of the hymn as a powerful tool for personal fulfillment and conveyance of suffering hews much closer to the way that hymns have been used throughout history. The complex emotions that she can show us through the pleading and begging are exceptionally compelling and distinct, even among the experimental genre.
In many ways, SINNER GET READY represents a massive shift and a culmination for Lingua Ignota. The softer compositions allow the harshness to ring out with greater efficacy, while the unorthodox instrumentation piques the curiosity more than dissonant static. With the inclusion of this hymnal tone, people are invited to question why this style of music was chosen at every turn throughout this record. With this, people are commanded to view the lyrics within the context of this soundscape. This album will not be, nor is it intended to be, for everyone. But then again, great albums rarely capture everyone’s heart on the first go around.