Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter wields grace and ferocity throughout SAVED!

Release date: 20 October 2023
Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter SAVED cover
20 October 2023, 09:00 Written by John Amen

The gnostic mindset – seeking spiritual truths, wrestling with faith, battling the temptations of mind and body – is well represented in popular music.

From The Carter Family, including Johnny Cash, to Chelsea Wolfe, Emma Ruth Rundle, and Kristina Esfandiari, among others. Faith-searching and rock music, for example, share a sense of restlessness; a spiritual, energetic, and/or romantic craving to merge with a sublime force or energy; and a gut-feeling that the self is both a valuable guide and a biased usher when it comes to accessing higher wisdom.

Of the gnostic figures that populate contemporary music, Kristin Hayter, previously using the moniker Lingua Ignota, is one of the more effusive and articulate. With her last two albums, 2019’s Caligula and 2021’s Sinner Get Ready, she occurred as no less than a medieval mystic, a tortured intermediary navigating the spectrum between witch and saint, schizophrenia and enlightenment, hell and salvation. Hayter skillfully represented how the quest to be free from self, and its concomitant cravings, is as archetypal a trek in the 21st Century as it was during the time of Christ.

Now going by the name Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter, the California-born singer and musician releases SAVED!, what is essentially the third instalment in her Pentecostal triptych. While rock listeners are traditionally sympathetic to songs that address sin and struggle, they tend to get antsy when the notion of being “saved” is introduced. Searching is an ecumenical process, characterized by longing and curiosity; being saved, on the other hand, is a resultant position that leans toward the dogmatic. That said, Hayter’s delivery is as anguished as ever, even if her perspective reflects a religious or teleological clarity. All things considered, Hayter demonstrates that she’s as compelling when testifying from an evangelical perch as when navigating an existential crisis.

“Judgment is coming / I’m ready to go,” Hayter laments on the country-and-gospel-infused “I’m Getting Out While I Still Can”. The volume dips and spikes; Hayter’s delivery undergoes intermittent warps, as if she’s coming in and out of consciousness. “I don’t think we’ll see one another again,” she continues, launching into a “speaking-in-tongues” segment. “If “Getting Out” spotlights Hayter’s Revelation-inflected premonitions, the following track, “All My Friends Are Going to Hell”, which borrows melodically from Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, brings into stark relief Hayter’s contention that the Rapture is indeed at hand (“I don’t want to be like my friends who are going to hell”).

“There’s Power in the Blood” shows Hayter drawing from similar sources as Joanna Sternberg, though Sternberg employs an elusive form of secular confessionalism while Hayter dives into the Christian whirlpool, sounding as if she’s performing at a snake-handling convention. On “I Will Be with You Always”, meanwhile, she plunges into the self-lacerations and teeth-gnashing that defined Caligula and Sinner (“once I was as ugly as a harpy-bitten tree / and every voice within me spoke / you will be never be free”), though she quickly pivots into post-baptismal confidence (“But today I am as perfect as a single blade of grass”).

“No storm can shake my inmost core”, Hayter proclaims on the 8-plus-minute “How Can I Keep from Singing”. The song launches as an almost pastoral coda, Hayter tapping into an atypical calmness. As the track progresses, she readopts a speaking-in-tongues part, gradually raising it in the mix. The contrast between her equanimous lead vocal and volatile glossolalia is riveting. The last two minutes of the track are taken up with moans, groans, sobs, and syllabic chanting, Hayter moving between ecstasy and grief, cathartic howls and burdened wails.

Turbulence, tension, and flux are as present on SAVED! as they are on Caligula and Sinner; with SAVED!, however, they’re accompanied by a desperate certitude that divine love exists and that eternal forgiveness is possible. Hayter fervently straddles a line between proclamation and judgment, venting and preaching, deliverance and elitism. She is, perhaps, lost and saved at the same time, again wielding paradoxes with grace and ferocity.

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