ALBUM REVIEW: Lingua Ignota, SINNER GET READY
Editor's Note: The replay value on this album has lessened for me since reviewing it. It is a very involved project, and while it is certainly unique and exciting and has a great premise, there are albums that I simply enjoyed better. So therefore, the grade was demoted from A- to B+.
Albums about formalized religion can often be a bunch of trite nonsense. Jesus Is King from Kanye West is the most recent example that comes to mind. A slapdash, insecure attempt to reconcile chaos and poor life decisions in Jesus name (amen) resulted in an album who’s most profound message was “Jesus, heal the bruises”. Wow, I learned so much from that experience, thank you Kanye, very cool. On the flipside, there are particular artists whose music is consumed by religious imagery and fervor. These artists have such a deep understanding of the good, bad and ugly that surrounds religion, and can portray it in a way that somehow makes an ancient book feel relevant to our modern times. As another wave of coronavirus begins sweeping our nation and continuing to kill us and our neighbors, that cultish “the end is nigh '' religious zealotry is coming back in style. And who better to try and help us repent before the world caves in on itself than Lingua Ignota, a performer who's been singing about God’s lack of mercy for years, and at churches nonetheless?
For her most recent album, she held herself up in Bumblefuck, Pennsylvania to absorb the unforgiving Christian energy that is soaked deep into the pores of the state. It’s actually quite incredible the way she twists and turns the mundane landscapes of the state, as well as seemingly ordinary pieces of media, to convey this message that God is unforgiving, untouchable and you should fear him. It is quite beautiful how her and her producer are able to so accurately meld the universes of Midsommar and the operatic Catholic hymn to create 9-minute beasts like the opener “THE ORDER OF SPIRITUAL VIRGINS”, which concludes with a frightening audio clip from the “fun” History Channel survivor reality show Alone. Words are never minced on this record, you can read into it, but lyrics like “Hide your children, hide your husband” and “I am relentless, I am incessant” can really only be taken one way. If you do not do as this supreme force says, it will reduce your family to a pile of flesh and blood, that’s it, simple as that. Instrumentally, this track is a slow moving dread of despondent piano chords, scary ambience and occasionally, frightening crashes that make you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster as Lingua operatically sings “sickness finds a way”.
“I WHO BEND THE TALL GRASSES” sounds like a day at Church at first, organs and all. But don’t be fooled, quickly a series of horrific chimes rolls in and the organs collide in this ugly way with the vocals. And then...not to take the Lord’s name in vain...but Jesus Christ. “Use any of your heavenly means...I DON’T GIVE A FUCK, JUST KILL HIM, I’M NOT ASKING!!!” She sounds so sorrowful, crying out and confessing and self-flagellating, “HE HAS TO DIE THERE IS NO OTHER WAY!” she wails. There is this unstable, vindictive edge to the character Lingua is portraying here that is not too dissimilar to many Christian freaks I’ve come across. At once, they want LGBTQ+ people and whoever they perceive as sinners to burn in an eternal flame. (TRIGGER WARNING)
Yet, when a priest is caught molesting an alter boy or a churchgoer hits their wife, all they do is torture themselves and cry in the confession booth, and in their own fucked up little religious world, they’re good with God and can sleep at night. In the conflicted wails of this song, that is what I hear, a vengeful person who casts death upon others while in the back of their head knowing they should be killed as well.
(OK KEEP READING)
“MANY HANDS” continues the album's rural instrumental themes, with the sharpening of blades and badly tuned, rusty stringed instruments playing into oblivion. This album just sounds like sticking your hand in a sharps container filled with needles and bees, in the best way possible. It’s really like the inverse to gospel music, instead of inspiring with ascending voices, it drags you into the bogs of Hell with many hands if you don’t repent. It treats religion as unforgiving, which it is according to the book. “PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE” turns down the maximalism, smartly, and focuses more on Lingua’s incredible vocal range over tasteful pianos. But make no mistake, the journey is far from over as she asks “do you want to be in Hell with me?” and continues the reluctant suffering from the previous song, repeating the lyrics “I wish it could be any other way”. To hold people to rigid standards of morality means you have to be prepared to be punished in the same way.
“REPENT NOW CONFESS NOW” is another tearful, violent track, this time over what sounds like a lute. It digs into themes of temporary body and eternal soul, and Lingua asks the listener to repent to God or have their legs torn off and glass shoved in their eyes. Sonically, we get these blasts of noise and more rusted strings as it moves along. “SACRED LINAMENT OF JUDGEMENT” and “MAN IS LIKE A SPRING FLOWER” are both really interesting in that they use two vocal snippets from two different perspectives of the same situation. The former has a televangelist weeping while confessing to sex with a prostitute, as Lingua sings “Oh sinner, have you ever had the love of Christ so lovingly denied!” as if to say, you are not forgiven, sir. On the latter track, we hear the voice of the prostitute, who says “He’s up there [on TV], and I know those tears aren’t real”. The irony of her being true to herself as “the sinner” and calling out him, a holy man, as the actual sinner is amazing, truthfully. Both songs serve different purposes, but lyrically I think the latter track is stronger. It really digs into the dichotomy of “the heart of man”, which is simultaneously Hellish, Goldy and Earthly. The use of repetition on this song is so powerful, although it is hardly the first example of such a thing on this record.
“PERPETUAL FLAME OF CENTRALIA” is a song about a ghost town in Pennsylvania that was abandoned after a coal mine fire in 1965. The flame is still not fully extinguished to this day, which works perfectly for this album about divine forces on Earth in small towns. I have always loved the idea of rural areas as the keys to the beyond, just like in Twin Peaks: The Return, the wormhole to another dimension is located in a very specific coordinate in the forests of Washington. “I am covered with the blood of Jesus” she sings over twiddling acoustics and pianos, “fear is nothing when the path is righteous” she continues. The entire affair ends with a snippet from another mundane source that is Ignota-fied, CNN. A news reporter is asking a woman who is anti-mask and anti-vax how she’ll be protected from the virus and she says “I’m covered in the blood of Christ”. I really love this track because it reminds me of being in Church, I feel as if I’ve heard a song just like this. Sweet piano chords, pretty vocals, demonic ass lyrics. Yup, just like Church.