King Woman – “Created In The Image of Suffering” (Relapse Records)
With its long association to the hippy / flower power movement, San Francisco once again draws itself center stage thanks to the hallucinogenic potency of the mighty King Woman. Fronted by Kristina Esfandiari, who’s suffered her fair share of mental anguish from years of religious torment, King Woman might be one of the lightest bands on a label renowned for its extreme and off the wall signings, but that’s not saying their couldn’t frazzle a field of flowers. Essentially a heavy stoner psych band, this quartet are also influenced by shoe gaze, drone and even doom during their heaviest moments like on the fuzz drenched opener of ‘Utopia’. Either way, it all adds up to a fair amount of noise especially in the raw, reverb soaked guitars and the plodding after rhythm that certainly make up a full n heavy sound to the 8 tracks on this debut. However, it’s the likes of the mesmerizing Floydian-esque ‘Hierophant’ that show the amazing captivating power of Esfandiari’s trippy vocals, surprisingly not high as if to rise above the music, but rather to mix unashamedly with her bearded brethren to add even more effect to the hypnosis. The fact that the album progressively builds in song length adds to the cumulative effect of the overall trip, such that when you reach the likes of the 8 minute ‘Hem’ the effects of the pysch fever have you in full possession, either be it between the ethereal bliss of Esfandiari’s shamanic wailing or the crushing power riffs when the band switch on the juice. Not bad at all considering King Woman are by no means a space rock band and even more commendably, don’t employ and keyboards or noticeable effects. “Created In The Image of Suffering” might have been the inspiration behind this release, but its cathartic illumination and ultimate release amid such beauty and peace make it truly breathtaking.