Sounds Like: A supernatural nervous breakdown
For Fans of: Mazzy Star, Melvins, Royal Thunder
Why You Should Pay Attention: Since forming in 2009 as a solo project for ex-Whirr singer Kristina Esfandiari, King Woman have congealed into a raging tour de force of gloom and woe. Since releasing their debut EP, 2014's Doubt, the foursome has gigged with Blonde Redhead and True Widow, and they've become more of a collaborative songwriting unit. Esfandiari says the stark, shimmery, glacial atmosphere of their latest album, their first for metal label Relapse, Created in the Image of Suffering, was a group effort and stronger because of it. "It took a while for us to get into our groove and trust each other and get comfortable with each other but now I feel we're in such a good place now," she says. Now Esfandiari feels comfortable singing personal lyrics about what she describes as a "very graceless" time in her life. The record was a cathartic experience that has elements of doom metal and shoegaze, but which she feels ultimately transcends genre. "To me, it's just spiritual music," she says. "Some people call it ethereal, transcendental or mystical, but for me, when I'm singing, I just go to a place where I don't feel like I'm there anymore. It's my way to connect to myself and to my own sense of spirituality."
They Say: Esfandiari drew from the experience of partaking in an ayahuasca ceremony for the first time for the lyrics to Suffering's lead track, "Utopia." "I really love psychedelics, but I learned that ayahuasca is a different animal," she says. "It's pretty intense. I did my first ayahuasca ceremony last June or July with my partner at the time, and the song is about how I felt in this new headspace and how beautiful it was. It was really crazy and kind of scary. You're basically in this ceremony in the redwoods for nine hours and there are a bunch of strangers singing spiritual songs in Portuguese and playing guitar. It's really intense, but it was a really beautiful experience and I did it several times after that. It's helped me a lot to deal with some personal things. Somebody invited me to do one at the perfect time for me because I was in a desperate, messed-up place. I was like, 'I really need something to happen in my life to shake me out of this headspace that I'm in,' and that ceremony did that for me."
Hear for Yourself: From its crashing, descending opening riff to Esfandiari moaning, "And this is really happening," the band's ayahuasca-brushed "Utopia" is a trippy explosion. Kory Grow