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King Woman’s debut EP, Doubt, has been out for a month or so, giving many a chance to consume this expansive, deliciously doom-soaked release. Comparisons have been drawn between her music and a marriage of Black Sabbath and Mazzy Star. While those comparisons are concise, they do little to prepare for the surprising scale that Doubt contains. At four songs, the EP’s largest fault is that its length cannot reconcile with the hunger for more that it inspires. The EP boasts a mournful yet empowering quality, like an antidepressant dam withholding both a torrential river of pain as well as the will to overcome it.

These songs drown you in their contemplative, forlorn dirges, the guttural riffs quake deep within you, a warning of what is to come. “Wrong” and “Burn” are particularly ominous, the mud-caked guitars slithering throughout the tracks’ length, rising and falling with each slippery slope. This tone is tempered by the elegant nuance of Kristina Esfandiari’s vocals, with her voice flitting like a dead leaf on winter’s first chill in the earliest sections of “Burn.”

“King of Swords” is a dreamy reverb haze that temporarily nullifies the calculated doom influence with its ethereal melody. Shoegaze-rooted effects rebound off the fading heartbeat of the drums, while Esfandiari swims amid its currents, her sullen croon stabbing through its murky depths. The song plays with the wavering brightness of Esfandiari’s past exploits with Whirr, though her voice and “King of Swords” projects maturity not present in that material. The track’s gently crushing, dream-like state offsets the creeping burial mass tone that permeates Doubt, which evokes (less effectively) Yob on last year’s Clearing the Path to Ascend. “King of Swords” is the EP’s strongest track and a guiding point on where King Woman can find the doom-laden, wonder-filled middle ground they’re seeking.

Aside from its length, Doubt suffers from its uneven composition, with bookending tracks “Wrong” and “Candescent Soul” sending a disruptive body ache through the one-two punch of “King of Swords” and “Burn.” Even amid this rough arrangement, Doubt is a bleakly rapturous debut, with its sounds hauntingly resonant and musicianship promising of greater works to come.

—Bruce Hardt

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Doubt is out now via The Flenser. Follow King Woman on Facebook.

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