When in doubt, open big. “Utopia,” the first track on King Woman’s debut album does just that, with Kristina Esfandiari’s somber voice coexisting alongside a huge boulder of a guitar riff. The song is heavy as hell, and has the swing of the best doom anthems.
Created in the Image of Suffering navigates a path between the crushing ambiance of atmospheric metal and the filigreed mood of shoegazey Goth—this won’t surprise fans of producer Jack Shirley, who helped birth Deafheaven’s Sunbather and Oathbreaker’s Rheia.
But what makes King Woman stand out is the magnetic, composed Esfandiari. She somehow finds the time to anchor two bands (Miserable is the other one) and keep a live schedule that’s intense in every way: Last summer, King Woman and Wax Idols signed up to open the Pentagram tour, only to quit due to “an overload of bullshit” from the headliners’ grizzled singer, Bobby Liebling. Esfandiari has since moved on in every way, including a relocation from the Bay Area to Brooklyn. Then again, she’s used to transcending hardship.