Lingua Ignota’s ‘Sinner Get Ready’ Is One Of The Most Profound And Profane Listens Of 2021

Steeped in ancient occultism, the album is one long walk out of hell.

Lingua Ignota

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Since his childhood, the ancient theologian Saint Augustine was troubled by the existence of evil. After all, if God was all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful, how could it be that the world was so often besieged by cruelty?

Augustine saw horror everywhere, but especially in his own heart — in a famous section of his book-length devotional Confessions, he noted that he would commit atrocious acts simply for the sake of it, stealing pears for no other reason than to steal pears. “I [had] a desire to commit robbery, and did so, compelled neither by hunger, nor poverty through a distaste for well-doing, and a lustiness of iniquity,” Augustine writes.

“For I pilfered that of which I had already sufficient, and much better. Nor did I desire to enjoy what I pilfered, but the theft and sin itself.”

So troubled was he by this impulse in himself that Augustine converted to Manichaeism, an ancient and now defunct religion that saw the world as a battleground between the forces of lightness and darkness. For the Manichees, God was a creature of pure light, and human beings were a co-mingled mixture of goodness and evil, forever battered about by ancient forces older than even the world.

Augustine would eventually abandon Manichaeism, finding it deficient in explaining the nature of evil, and of God. But traces of the religion remained in his writings for the rest of his long life, in particular his obsession with the breadth and complexity of horror, a black stamp on the soul that Augustine believed every human being on Earth had to spend their lives trying to bleach out.

Such a stamp is all over Sinner Get Ready, the new album by Lingua Ignota — real name Kristin Hayter — like nicotine stains on the fingers of a smoker. Steeped in ancient occultism, rich with the stink of both suffering and salvation, the album is one long walk out of hell, reminiscent of the last lines of another classic text of the devotional, Dante’s Purgatory — “My guide and I went into that hidden tunnel; here we came forth, and once more saw the stars.” Like the Manichees, like Dante, Hayter’s canvas is nothing less than the human soul.

Sinner Get Ready Is One Of The Best Albums of the Year

Hayter is no stranger to this grandiosity of scope. Her breakthrough album under the Lingua Ignota name, Caligula, took personal anguish and made it universal, stretching out horror like the skin used to bind occult Bibles. But Sinner Get Ready is louder and grander, its words branding themselves on the inner ear of listeners with the same vicious intent of the machine of punishment in Franz Kafka’s ‘In The Penal Colony.’

‘THE ORDER OF SPIRITUAL VIRGINS’, the album opener, begins with a series of threats — “hide your children/hide your husband” — before casting resurrection as an apocalyptic event. In Hayter’s world, even moments of absolution and grace are as devastating as a hailstorm of boulders, rending old wounds new again and sending survivalists running for their shelters.

In Hayter’s world, even moments of absolution and grace are as devastating as a hailstorm of boulders.

Indeed, Sinner Get Ready is ostensibly a metal record — it has the ferocity and ambition of doom, and benefits from being played at near ear-splitting volume. ‘MANY HANDS’ a bonfire of pagan chants, summons itself out of nothing, reaching a dizzying crescendo of intensity, while ‘ REPENT NOW CONFESS NOW’ breaks itself over the bay like a shipwreck.

‘MAN IS LIKE A SPRING FLOWER’, seven crushing minutes assembled out of voices as scattered as handfuls of broken glass, is the highpoint of an entire way of making music, a vicious threat that might be the most agonizing track in the entire Lingua Ignota back catalogue. There are few songs this single-minded in their intent to cause harm; few choruses as serrated, or as rusted. These aren’t melodies. They are weapons.

Darkness Like Oil, Light Like Dappled Light

But through this horror, veiled, bedecked in rubies, with the face of a snarling dog, comes grace. ‘THE SACRED LINAMENT OF JUDGMENT’ emerges from suffering with its palms pointing up, singing a song of catharsis and rebirth. “My wounds that stung before now sing,” Hayter murmurs, “my broken heart too terrible to hold.”

These shimmers of light are new for Hayter. All Bitches Die, one of her early masterworks, found the absence of suffering enough of a victory to fall back on, while Caligula rimmed itself in crowns of thorns rather than transcend. Here, songs like ‘PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE’ and ‘PERPETUAL FLAME OF CENTRALIA’ aren’t just marked by a vacuous hole where pain once was; they are genuinely transformed through suffering, brought back to life even as they are riddled with stigmata.

This is the project of the Manichees made into song; a battle between good and evil that wages in every human heart transformed into the single greatest record of 2021. Peel off its outer shell and you will see darkness like oil, light like dappled light: sinners’ blood flowing like sinners’ blood.

Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Music Junkee, religious studies major, poet and certified Lingua Ignota devotee. He tweets @JosephOEarp.