In the days of the Christian Old Testament, the forgiveness of sin required a sacrifice; it demanded an exchange from its participants. Fast forward to the year 2023 — reverend Kristin Michael Hayter’s new album “SAVED!” has created a sound emblematic of the 5th Century BCE religious text. Released on Oct. 20, “SAVED!” rings in the rhythm of sacrifice, a haunting hymn immortalized by the reverend’s reinvention of her art.
This album is a direct response to her days as Lingua Ignota — the pseudonym Hayter utilized up until earlier this year. For Lingua Ignota, God was a righting force of justice, but for the Hayter of “SAVED!” God is a parent; he fulfills her, heals her. Here, Hayter’s mystic conversion from atheism to Catholicism becomes apparent.
The opening track, “I’M GETTING OUT WHILE I CAN,” is both an allegory for her salvation from a life of sin and a reference to her persona — she is breaking free from the callous God of Lingua Ignota, manifesting for herself a greater higher power. The movements Hayter creates here are the most brilliant.
She controls tension and release with a remarkably sharp hand. Enigmatic background thumping, fake stops and the abrasive surprise of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) at the end of the track usurp my attention. I tell myself I can hear everything, that I am not disturbed, but I am. It is almost painful how well she has mastered surprise.
Hayter tenders revelations of profound kindness, “[building] a fortress from God’s wondrous love,” and swamps them with eerie percussives and stringent noise. Tension builds like a balloon, and she wrestles air from it with swift-footed intelligence.
Still, her soaring cadences do not preclude violence. Instead, their eerie sound renders him docile; frank, even. The lamenting ballad “IDUMEA” feels like an invitation despite its lyrical anger.
A particular feeling of privacy extends from her voice. As I listen, I feel as if I have arrived at teatime with her and her God; or perhaps I am an honored guest at the holiest goth concert in the nation. I think this is built in part by the antiquated qualities of the album.
There is an undeniable technical excellence to Hayter’s newest opus. First recording all 11 tracks in high-fidelity audio, she passes them through a four-track recorder to distort their sound, then funnels all their data into small half-broken cassette players. She axes the poly-hertz noises that flare deliciously in high-quality audio files, opting instead for the grunge of the indie artist.
As a result, the album sounds like a cassette dug up from the cellar of a forest, an utterance produced only in deep territorial secrecy — not illegal to hear, but certainly amoral to listen to and partake in (at least with eyes open).
Hayter is intensely faithful to her artistic form in “SAVED!” She devotes herself to shifts in the vocal texture of her voice, opting for gravel-like tones that rasp and halt. This constitutes a significant departure from the silky mezzo-soprano of Lingua Ignota.
Across 46 minutes of song, her musicality deviates from the operatic forms of Diamanda Galas and Klaus Nomi, artists who once seemed to guide her style. Instead, Hayter heads toward a contortion of the church sermon. Her lyrics are not for the listener, but rather for a sometimes inexplicit and fickle divinity.
Hayter’s album is an excellent introduction to her new name under the “Reverend” honorific, but leaves something to be desired in its production. She has confiscated the idiosyncratic clicks and blips and unexpected sweet hubbub that used to characterize her music. These spellbound constructions are now rarer and only occasionally enswathe me in her world on “SAVED!” falling short of being fully convincing.
There are moments of distraction and over-exerted distortion that can disfigure the immersive listening experience. But I would be remiss not to mention the ebullient piano arpeggios here. If anything, they save this album from the bland distaste that is often associated with outdated church choruses. The unfaltering chords are a delectable gift for the listener, and in “SAVED!” they pull even the unwitting listener upwards, climbing the stairs to heaven — or perhaps the steps to the altar of sacrifice.
No one really knows.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.