Lingua Ignota Credit: courtesy of Profound Lore Records

In another time and place, Kristin Hayter might have been opera’s darkest diva, but in this universe opera companies shy away from harsh noise, guttural growling, and samples of interviews with convicted serial killers. Instead of making her art subservient to a formal institutional setting, Hayter draws from her classical training and background in church music, metal, and literature to create confrontational, borderline industrial soundscapes as Lingua Ignota. Extreme music has an unfortunate history of misogynist themes, and Hayter, a survivor of domestic abuse, flips the script to create what she’s called “survivor anthems.” Her latest release, July’s Caligula, is informed by her personal experiences as well as her observations of a society that’s just starting to grapple with essential conversations about such intimate suffering. (The album is on Profound Lore, and could be seen as a counterpoint to the 2011 release True Traitor, True Whore by labelmate Leviathan, aka Jef “Wrest” Whitehead, written after he was arrested due to allegations of sexual and domestic assault made by an ex-girlfriend—he was eventually found not guilty of all charges except aggravated domestic battery.) Caligula is most compelling when it combines punishing, bleak atmospheres and Hayter’s malleable vocals, which twist from vulnerable pleading to swing-for-the-rafters preaching to eviscerating screams on “Spite Alone Holds Me” and “If the Poison Won’t Take You My Dogs Will.” Elsewhere Hayter strips the music down to piano and vocals, which highlights her impassioned singing; stark songs such as “Fragrant Is My Many Flower’d Crown” and “Sorrow! Sorrow! Sorrow!” sound so much more like excerpts from a musical than anything I’m used to critiquing that I was tempted to ask the Reader’s theater staff to weigh in. (In any case, I can confidently advise anyone with misophonia to skip the sample of Lars Ulrich chowing down on a sandwich on the latter track!) Hayter’s raw emotion and vocal prowess leave a bigger impression than her songwriting, but part of her intent is to channel things impossible to express fully through words—after all, “lingua ignota” is Latin for “unknown language.” It’s always powerful to transform personal trauma into personal triumph by exorcising the demons that haunt you, and for every person who dismisses Hayter’s music as art-school schlock or finds its subject matter off-putting, another will find strength or a spirit that resonates in their own life.   v