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Moody and dark but never self-absorbed and detracting, King Woman’s debut EP is an ephemeral venture into the modern possibilities of doom rock/metal.
In just four tracks, ‘Doubt’ opens itself up in clear, vulnerable and decisive form. Led by former Whirr frontwoman Kristina Esfandiari, the style and attributes gained while a part of the fellow San Francisco peers carries over well. However, while there are resemblances in sound, out of respect and convenience that’s where the comparisons will end.
At times experimental and contrasting and at equal moments supported by a resounding minimalist approach, the EP offers a gloomy but sincere type of impact. It’s almost a direct contradiction. The music is so bleak but comforting at the same time.
For contemporary reference, if Conan’s ‘Blood Eagle’ is neatly positioned at one end of the doom metal scale and Pallbearer’s brilliant ‘Foundations of Burden’ is the perfect genre meeting point, what King Woman deliver is at the other end – another differing yet effective interpretation, if you will.
Bay Area label The Flenser certainly put out some obscure material, most of which is completely off-putting if the musical taste is not yet properly acquired. Fortunately, ‘Doubt’ is dual in purpose and impression. It satisfies the abstract listening needs but is dynamic and recognisable enough to be inviting to the more mainstream ears.
Opener ‘Wrong’ slowly goes from first to fourth gear, gently stopping at each point along the way. It’s the establishing moment of the EP.
The incessant refrains of ‘And you take’ by Esfandiari on ‘King of Swords’ can get a little repetitive, but the instrumentals, particularly in the opening, support this six-minute offering. The guitar lines are sharp and the tone relaxing. The rhythm is fundamental and primary – keep the time with no need for anything fancy.
‘Burn’ is where everything coalesces. Like a flowing, page-turning novel, the music is mysterious enough to make you want to discover what comes next. The production is clean with an alterative feel present. The vocals croon with haunting precision. Comparatively, closer ‘Candescent Soul’ is another slow-burner. It does suffer slightly in comparison to what directly preceded it, but what it works to show is King Woman’s versatility.
This form of music leaves itself exposed. If the right balance isn’t struck it becomes an easy target for critique and ridicule. Thankfully, this is a non-issue here.
Emotive, precise and moving, ‘Doubt’, while not without its faults, is a solid early year addition.
‘Doubt’ is complete and largely consistent. The tail doesn’t wag the dog at any point. This isn’t every day music. It provides a selective listen depending on the mood of the respective listener. There are moments of musical blemish, but that seems to only add to the appeal. Imperfectly perfect or perfectly flawed, whatever label fits best, really.