Perpetual Flame Volume 2

Dates: October 13, 2023– October 15, 2023

As many Echoes & Dust readers will surely know, the moniker of LINGUA IGNOTA was being retired this weekend in London, England. Simply put, it has been a project that has captured the hearts, minds and very souls of a pantheon of listeners globally, who have found Kristin Hayter’s holy/unholy exorcism of trauma touching and mesmerising. Haunting, is perhaps a better adjective for it. Listen for only one moment and the visceral nature of the music easily overcomes you. Every time I have listened has resulted in wonder at how the artist not only was brave enough to sculpt this music and put it to tape, but then have the strength to relive the meaning and horror on successive nights. You come to ask yourself – how is this sustainable?

Kill the project at its zenith, was Kristin’s answer. On an ever upward trajectory, with the huge success of SINNER GET READY, Hayter has chosen to permanently retire the music and the name. The future looks bright, however, with a new album – SAVED! by Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter – out next week on their own label, Perpetual Flame Ministries. On the eve of this transition, London bore witness to the farewell of the project that has made their name, but no doubt taken so much. Realising this was the last time to see the project, Islington Assembly Hall was sold out on both evenings, with an international crowd having travelled from near and very far. Ask anyone queueing on either night and they whispered favourite memories of the project, tracks that now meant so much to them, or you could see tears welling up before passing the threshold to the venue itself. Clearly, this was going to be a deeply emotional – nigh spiritual – couple of nights.

The first evening was opened by the much-buzzed about duo, HIDE. It certainly woke everyone up who may have been sullen from the weather that had just doused the expectant crowd with a day’s worth of rain in half an hour. Or maybe, that sullen, stoic attitude or feeling one has when looking forward to something that will be a bittersweet goodbye. But no matter!  For now, though, we had HIDE blasting the already-packed venue with their industrial electronic noise.

Hailing from Chicago, the pair are made up of fine artist Gabel and percussionist Seth Sher. Raw and uncompromising, it was immediately apparent why Hayter and KW [of Vile Creature, the other half of Perpetual Flame Ministries, tour manager of Lingy recently and very much Vol.2’s caretaker, and quite possibly one of the nicest people in the heavy underground] has chosen the pair as a support. After all, HIDE’s 2016 Black Flame EP has been dedicated to the memory of Reyhana Jabbari, a 27 year old Iranian woman who was hung for allegedly killing someone who trying to rape her. It seems fitting that a project dealing with visceral trauma so abruptly, intimately and venomously, would fit on the bill.

Gabel stalked the stage in torn attire, smeared make-up, and posing in both beautiful and grotesque shapes all being only lit by a relentless strobe light. The pummelling music conjured by Sher is barbarous; anthems for the disenfranchised, recalibrations of what music is and can do, stretching samples way past the point of breaking, or chopping them up to make painful, raw, yet intriguing ‘catchy’ blasts that create the bedrock for lyrics discussing the imbalance of power or brutally honest examinations of deeply personal, undiscussed topics. The music and performance in confrontational – very much in a LINGUA IGNOTA come Pharmakon come Marina Abramović way of being – and you can very much see HIDE is the real deal. I was captivated. But perhaps it was the venue itself being too open or large, or the fact HIDE were opening up proceedings, but I wanted to be more intimidated, more present, more intimate with the duo than was possible. I really hope I can catch them if they play London again in a smaller venue.

A quick note that the band were very clear early on that they did not allow any photos or video to be taken (potentially the first song was deemed okay for press purposes?) Gabel most certainly puts themselves out there during performance, and it was disappointing to see so many of the crowd (and I believe an official photographer) have to be glared at repeatedly or literally told ‘NO!’ more than once. It must surely take the duo out of the performance. It’s a matter of consent – and yet a lot of people didn’t seem to compute this. Given we were at a LINGUA IGNOTA show, I found this rather perplexing. Please, everyone, respect artist’s wishes!

The final support for Night 1 of the three-day extravaganza was the incredible Jo Quail. For those not in the know – and I doubt it, if you’re reading on Echoes & Dust! – Jo is an incredible cellist, who creates vivid compositions that dabble in heavier territory via the instrumentation surrounding the live cello. Blurring between neoclassical, post-rock and even what one might deep hard rock, if it weren’t for the foregrounded instrument being atypical, Quail is a consummate performer, able to hold a whole audience in the palm of her hand (even if those palms are busy furiously playing).

The four-song set was a glorious introduction for any in the audience who hadn’t witnessed them play before, with some personal favourites of mine being played (‘Gold’ and ‘Forge’). Quail expertly navigated these complex tracks [and tunings!] with typical ease, all while keeping things light between tracks. Incredible, virtuoso playing coupled with her unique style of adding a very percussive element to her instrument’s use. This is, of course, used in classical, but Quail leans into it, pushing the envelope and dabbling with the resultant feedback and reverb.

Most excitingly, we bore witness to a reinvention of a very early track (‘Rex Infractus’), now newly titled just ‘Rex’, which was a first for me to hear and seemed to really capture the crowd’s attention as the second song played. After this, the aforementioned lengthy tracks had people swaying, with eye’s glued to Jo’s spotlit figure. Upon finishing, there was a moment of triumph, as another glut of people had been converted to the instrumental genius of her work. If I had one complaint it was that the set did feel genuinely short, and from looking at initial set times, I thought they may have had time for another fairly lengthy track. But that’s just me being greedy – Quail left us wanting more, like any wise, tenured artist knows how to do.

Finally, LINGUA IGNOTA came onto the stage for the penultimate evening of the moniker’s existence. The catalogue was being split between the two evenings. Friday 13th (!) was to be purely piano-based interpretations of all the early material, with the following Saturday focusing on SINNER GET READY.

Adorned in a paper thin couture dress I imagine may have been made by long-time collaborator Ashley Rose Mersky, Kristin took to the stage and delivered a hypnotic set, taking in tracks primarily from CALIGULA, but also from ALL BITCHES DIE, standalone singles, and covers.

Opening with the tail end of ‘DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR’ was always going to be a bold way to start – but Hayter doesn’t ever do anything by halves. The audience was here for them and they were here for them. Immediately the evening felt suffused by love and support. This weekend was a final exorcism. Where once LINGUA IGNOTA was catharsis, Perpetual Flame Ministries Vol.2 became catharsis from the project.

Hayter launched into ‘ALL BITCHES DIE (ALL BITCHES DIE HERE)’ and somehow the piano version hit all the harder than the original mighty punishing harsh recording. Pain and concentration were etched across their face, as they pushed through the traumatic material. It was an honour to witness. Difficult, too. Every part of the evening felt like it had been thought through, orchestrated to say goodbye to the project that has made her name, notorious, and now ready to be let go. ‘IF THE POISON WON’T TAKE YOU MY GODS WILL’ was summoned next, but which also had lyrics suffused throughout it from Hayter’s musical dissertation (that bore rise to LI), ‘BURN EVERYTHING TRUST NO ONE KILL YOURSELF’. It takes a special musical mind to be able to blur their own material together to form something new, one off, for a night.

A Karen Dalton cover broke up the tension, albeit still delivered in a menacing, haunted way. ‘Katie Cruel’ echoed around a silent, transfixed Islington Assembly Hall, before we turned back time again, with Kristin bringing back ‘THE CHOSEN ONE (MASTER)’ from LET THE EVIL OF HIS OWN LIPS COVER HIM. Just… wow. I had never heard LINGUA IGNOTA play either of these live before and I’m so very glad I got the opportunity to hear them.

‘FAITHFUL SERVANT FRIEND OF CHRIST’ was next and blew everyone away with how potent it was made on the piano. Hayter effortlessly gliding over the keys, all the while THAT voice being utterly impeccable – both choral, operatic and yet all the more emotive than I often find traditional performances. The passion, pain and effort it takes to drag her gorgeous voice through these compositions is something to behold. ‘WOE TO ALL (ON THE DAY OF MY WRATH)’ is a favourite track of mine and, yet again, hearing a piano version was stunning. Another favourite song immediately followed – the only standalone single the project delivered, ‘O RUTHLESS GREAT DIVINE DIRECTOR’. Shivers. Menacing, cold, magisterial. [Side bar – I know the project is over, but pretty please could Perpetual Flame Ministries press this track on a limited 7”?  Thank you!]

‘MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE’ and ‘FRAGRANT IS MY MANY FLOWER’D CROWN’ followed, which is around about where I was in floods of tears as were approximately half of the whole venue. How Kristin keeps it together on stage is a testament to her musical discipline and surely one of the strongest personal constitutions going. A SINNER GET READY track made a surprise appearance in the form of ‘THE ORDER OF SPIRITUAL VIRGINS’, before she returned to the outro of ‘DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR’. Islington Assembly Hall erupted as Hayter said “thank you” and let herself smile and wave before marching off.

The clamour for more was deafening, only beaten by Hayter reappearing for two sumptuous covers that have become different calling cards for the project in the past – ‘Wicked Game’ (Chris Isaak) and, of course, ‘Jolene’ (Dolly Parton). Wow. Just wow. Dazed and filled with a sense of having once again witnessed something very special, I stumbled home, wondering if I had enough emotional fortitude left in the tank for the following evening, let alone how Hayter must be feeling.

Evening #2 arrived. The final ever performance by LINGUA IGNOTA. But before that two new supports had been invited to play.

First up were Ashenspire. What a meteoric – and thoroughly deserved – rise this Scottish band are enjoying. In much the same way that CALIGULA reverberated around the underground music scene upon its release and set the trajectory for Kristin’s success afterwards, it feels that last year’s Hostile Architecture has done likewise for Glasgow’s finest.

Back in the UK on the final date of a long tour, the band are visibly pumped and happy to be part of such a momentous evening. They had said as much across their social media in the days leading up to the event. Being able to mix bludgeoning avant-garde black metal with anarchist politics, fearless support of disenfranchised minority rights, and still be easy-going, lovely and beaming from ear to ear is a pretty rare gift, but Ashenspire have it in droves; and that ease-come-seriousness, happiness-come-blistering repudiation of the status quo, makes them unique.

The audience comes alive to their caustic logical paeans, calls for a better way forward, to fight for a more positive tomorrow. I think we all need that right now. Just look around at the ruin wrought. Despite it being a final date of tour, the band deliver a howling, brooding threnody to London – pitch perfect at every turn. Ashenspire are a band that are clearly on the radar of many more than two years ago, but they are most definitely still adding to that throng of admirers. Finishing with the indomitable ‘Cable Street Again’ the audience are left punching the air, as Dean lets out the final ringing notes of saxophone and the decibel meter raises higher as the band are cheered off stage.

Talking of saxophone. . .  x2!?! The final support came from KEN mode. I have been a huge fan of the band for a long, long time, but had never managed to catch them live before, until earlier this year at Roadburn Festival. And, don’t ask me why, but their set then didn’t really hit the spot. I don’t know if I was distracted or whether I was stood in a part of the venue where the sound wasn’t carrying as well, but I left seeing them in Tilburg a little flat and perplexed.

Well…  Hello London. Yikes!  All that feedback and sweaty, animalistic, instinctive venom and energy was captured far better within the smaller walls of Islington Assembly Hall. Delivering tracks from across four albums, including from last year’s NULL and the very recently released new LP, VOID, the quartet berated the room with their extreme noise rock.

What makes their set all the more impressive is their perseverance, as they suffer some technical difficulties straight out the gate and, for the drummer, throughout the set. That said, with being such a tenured touring band, they deal with these issues lightly, and deliver a stunning set of controlled chaos – a battering ram to the brain, striking the crowd time and time over the head with their focused bile and menace. They blast through their set; bass grinding, guitar shrieking, saxophone wailing, with a barrage of drums; and the audience watches all somehow holding our breath.

They say farewell, thanking the crowd for looking after one another (a guy was in distress and needed extricating by security between songs… and a young woman fainted by me during Lingy’s set the evening before), thanking Kristin and KW like the other supports had done before, and immediately taking their gear off stage as the final feedback fizzled out. Expectations absolutely blown apart – or, rather, met from what I hoped earlier in the year. Most excellent.

As the stage was set up and the beautiful Yamaha piano was wheeled on; I had thought this would be piano versions of SINNER GET READY. However, eagle-eyed, I realised they had set up a raised stage next to the instrument, with another microphone and Lingy’s now recognisable lighting rig. We were going to be delivered something else entirely.

Kristin took to stage, and after a little technical mishap, launched into the final LINGUA IGNOTA set. Over the next hour or so, she would play the entirety of what proved to be the project’s final album, as well as one track from CALIGULA, a traditional religious cover (which may or may not be riffed upon on the forthcoming LP), and a lot of murmured whispering and singing of other traditional folk and spiritual music providing segue in between tracks.

Kicking off with ‘MANY HANDS’, Kristin almost looked on the verge of allowing herself to be overcome by the emotion of the day. Whether true or not, that was my perception, and I immediately welled-up and had to summon a sniff to pull myself together. Time for crying later, but not right at the start, surely!  ‘THE ORDER OF SPIRITUAL VIRGINS’ was also delivered in a subdued reverie. Powerful vocally, of course, but I feared for a little while that this might prove a more-than-usual difficult set to watch.

And perhaps conscious of that, Hayter seemed to flow into ‘REPENT NOW CONFESS NOW’ and blew the doors off the venue. It should be noted that for this and the previous night the audience was utterly silent. That respect is rare and I was so happy that all those that chose to witness these final sets gave it the reverence is deserved. ‘MAN IS LIKE A SPRING FLOWER’ was next and things stepped up a gear once again. A LINGUA IGNOTA set is always an intimate affair, and even in the larger venues she had begun to play, Kristin always still bravely ventured into the throng of the audience. Armed with mic in one hand and light in the other, she wandered, stalked and climbed through the standing section. At one point I must have been only a foot or so away as she screamed raw “Love is not enough! The heart of man is unbearable to hold!”, reminding me of the pop-up set at Roadburn years ago, when she had lights that she swung around her head and clattered on the ground. Full circle. Stunning.

The traditional Pentecostal hymn was next, glorious in delivery, but with Hayter almost slumped in sitting repose, clearly exhausted from the previous two tracks. But if anyone expected the peak fury to be over, this was a false dawn. The most menacing and truly upsetting times I’ve seen LINGUA IGNOTA were eclipsed by this final evening’s rendering of ‘I WHO BEND THE TALL GRASSES’. Holy f**k. Scratching and punching the floor, screaming beyond any screams I’d bore witness to before, Hayter lost herself in the moment, channelling all the pain and rage the lyrics to that song, and the LINGUA IGNOTA project overall, had encapsulated. Tears began rolling down my cheeks. Pure art mixed with true emotion will always move you.

‘THE SOLITARY BRETHREN OF EPHRATA’ and ‘THE SACRED LINAMENT OF JUDGEMENT’ basked in the wake of the previous performance, while adding their own emotive elements to proceedings. Everyone took a deep breath, because we knew that the set was slowly coming to its denouement. ‘PERPETUAL FLAME OF CENTRALIA’ erupted, with people closing their eyes, opening weeping or bowing their heads as if in prayer or supplication. We were, I suppose: “Life is a song…”

A glorious delivery of that powerful song gave way to a bitter repeat of ‘IF THE POISON WON’T TAKE YOU MY DOGS WILL’ (now replete with original lyrics), this chillingly delivered on the piano, and just… blew my mind. And then, ‘PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE’. A nice couplet of canine loyalty and intimidation; and of religious questioning, forbearance and giving oneself over…

As the final notes rang out, the whole venue seemed to explode in praise and devotion. What a final act. Praise be. And now we have a reverend with which to have a service with.

I write this before Day #3, an evening of winding down with nu-metal karaoke with Kristin, KW and Gwarsenio Hall of Two Minutes to Late Night fame. Will we be SAVED!?  I think so.

Now, to dust off what to sing…  Maybe ‘It’s Been a While’ by Staind?  Do I feel a little ‘Numb’ by Linkin Park?  Or… maybe far more apt for the future would be that little ditty from Evanescence – ‘Bring Me to Life’.

 

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