Quick, what is scarier than a Halloween sound effects record and is threatening to call it quits at the end of this month? If you answered Lingua Ignota, you probably already have tickets to see her and what is billed as the swan song of this project, the brainchild of self-proclaimed reverend Kristin Hayter. As part of Perpetual Flame from Perpetual Flame Ministries, a three-day music festival and multidisciplinary arts fair at Chicago’s Thalia Hall on April 28 through April 30, Lingua Ignota will perform her final North American performances. (She’s touring Europe beginning in mid-May.) Even though this project is coming to an end, it’s easy to guess she’ll continue to make music, whether under her own name or another moniker, given her clearly prodigious talent.
Hayter formed Lingua Ignota (Latin for unknown language) as a musical vehicle for self-therapy by using Catholic imagery with a delivery bordering on the satanic. This therapy was required, if you asked Hayter, because of multiple personal relationships that became sexually abusive and violent, and she used Lingua Ignota as a way of exorcising the demons called forth by her horrific experiences. Make no mistake, what she has generated in her discography is challenging, difficult listening.
On Friday night, Lingua Ignota will perform her 2017 debut “All Bitches Die” and her 2019 album “Caligula.” “All Bitches Die” is only four tracks, but they average about ten minutes per number—it’s a relief to break them up at all, if only to give the listener the opportunity to recover. To be clear, there is nothing bad or that is not well-done on her recordings, it’s just that I feel an ethical responsibility to warn listeners what they will be subjecting themselves to. Or in other words, as she titles the first composition, “Woe to All (On the Day of My Wrath).” About five minutes into that track, there’s a lovely piano and sung segment, on which Hayter’s vibrato-laden vocals echo throughout what seem to be the church of her own making: “My tongue is an axe and a sword and a five-pointed dagger with a single word,” “every mountain shall crumble,” etcetera. When listening to her singing delivery, which alternates between in-the-red screaming and operatic vibrato, you’d also be forgiven for hearing metal influences—not for nothing were her first two records released via metal label Profound Lore Records, and her partner in Perpetual Flame Ministries is KW Campol of the metal band Vile Creature. (Perpetual Flame is positioned as a record label and art house that supports music, writing and art.)
“Caligula,” from 2019, begins with “Faithful Servant Friend of Christ,” the strings of which heave like a boat being tossed on high waves, as Hayter begins her dramatic, vibrato-laden chanting. (Hayter sports a matching tattoo branded across her chest.) The song builds into a symphony of sorts, accompanied by her powerful alto vocals. Violins run throughout hurdy-gurdy style, until it’s time for the piano-led “Do You Doubt Me Traitor,” in which she repeatedly sings and whispers, “How can you doubt me now,” until it builds to a climax over its nine-and-a-half minutes and Hayter repeatedly shrieks, “I don’t eat, I don’t sleep, I don’t break up”—or at least that’s how I interpret the screaming and howling that would cause most vocal coaches to volunteer to be institutionalized—as the prepared piano and rattling chains conjure memories of childhood Halloween sound effects records. (Okay, I still have mine.) “Do you doubt me traitor, throw your body in the fucking river,” she entreats whomever she is addressing. This is the point at which a certain old saw about a woman scorned springs to mind, but it’s much more serious than that.
On “May Failure Be Your Noose,” Hayter again makes her feelings clear to the listener and object of her scorn, whereas on one of the other tracks, there’s an old-timey preacher doing his routine and a children’s choir singing “All Things Bright And Beautiful.”
Hayter screams, “Die, motherfucker, die!” later, as horns and a cacophony of synthesizers simulate the sound of a brick wall vibrating apart and cascading down upon your ears. And we’re only to track two. Clarity appears with about four minutes to go, and she cries dramatically that “he strikes me down,” accompanied at that point by spare strings. “May dishonor drown you,” she also sings.
On Saturday night, she performs her 2021 Sargent House record “Sinner Get Ready” in full. On this record, she’s evolved from screaming and shrieking as much and graduated to channeling a chanting trope, but the themes are similar, and her anger has clearly not dissipated. In “The Order of Spiritual Virgins,” she sings, “Hide your children, hide your husbands, I am relentless, I am incessant, I am the ocean,” she intones, “and all who dare look upon me swear eternal devotion.” In “I Who Bend to the Tall Grasses” she sing-speaks that, “I swear to you, he has to die, there is no other way.” Listening to her music and hearing her vocals, the sheer gravity and desperation of her point of view could not be clearer, and it makes me wonder what sort of psychic cost this exacts from Hayter as Lingua Ignota.
Indeed, that is the stated reason she is retiring the project altogether. Hayter released a statement via Instagram last November that committing herself to the project has “been acutely painful.”
I will not allow my wounds to destroy me. I want to live a healthy, happy life and have changed much in myself and my surroundings to bring light in. As such the art has to change too. It is not healthy for me to relive my worst experiences over and over through LI, and my healing has finally allowed me to feel how painful that is. I am taking a new direction with my music and I am looking forward to the future… I am retiring this catalog, this pain. This era is over for me. I will give my final performances of this music everything I have, and I look forward to the actual great pleasure of interpreting hymns for you. Revelations is upon us. Gentle friends, it is ok to let go. Thank you for sharing the dark with me, it is time to move forward.
So this is our last chance to share this darkness with her. Other acts on the bill include Moor Mother, HUDE, Midwife, Planning for Burial, Thou and Campol’s band, Vile Creature. Additionally, Perpetual Flame Ministries hosts a live fashion presentation by Ashley Rose Couture and an installation of student work curated by Hayter’s undergraduate mentor at SAIC, Mark Booth. The festival is ages seventeen and over, and recommended for those who embrace the darkness and find a catharsis from that experience.
Craig Bechtel is a freelance writer and has also been a Senior Staff Writer for Pop’stache. He is also a DJ, volunteer and Assistant Music Director for CHIRP Radio, 107.1 FM, and contributes occasionally to the CHIRP blog. As DJ Craig Reptile, you can hear him play music on the FM dial or at www.chirpradio.org most Sunday nights from 6pm to 9pm. He previously worked in radio at KVOE AM and Fox 105 in Emporia, Kansas, and served as a DJ, music director and general manager for WVKC at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he also won the Davenport Prize for Poetry and earned a B.A. in English writing. Craig has been working in various capacities within the hotel and meetings industry for over twenty years, and presently works at a company that uses proprietary systems to develop proven data strategies that increase revenue, room nights and meeting attendance. In his spare time, he also fancies himself an armchair herpetologist, and thus in addition to a wife, son and cat, he has a day gecko and a veiled chameleon in his collection.