ALBUM REVIEW: Sightless Pit’s debut sets the bar for extreme music crossovers

sightless pit, grave of a dog, lingua ignota, the body, full of hell

Lingua Ignota, The Body and Full of Hell—three of extreme music’s most exciting projects, are joined at the hip. Over the past decade, The Body has collaborated with Full of Hell twice, Kristin Hayter has sung on the latest The Body and Full of Hell albums, and Hayter’s Caligula featured Full of Hell vocalist Dylan Walker and The Body drummer Lee Bufford. These musicians now pour their malicious experimentation into Sightless Pit.

Grave of a Dog
Sightless Pit
Thrill Jockey Records, Feb. 21

Bufford’s mutated production, Walker’s hellish venom and Hayter’s terrifying dramatics come together for a stupefying dose of neoclassical death industrial metal. Grave of a Dog pushes the trio’s limits and deepens their roots.

All three have remained at least adjacent to extreme metal, but good luck making out the guitars here. Opener (and single) “Kingscorpse” remains Sightless Pit’s perfect statement of intent. Hayter’s haunting vocal harmonies come off like they’re being sampled, worked into Bufford’s unpredictable IDM groove. Similarly, Walker’s inhuman shrieks function like an extra layer of noise over the track. This sets a tone of three distinct voices merging into one rather than taking turns showcasing themselves. The ominous modulations that creep over the pulsating bass drum and grating synth bass of “Immersion Dispersal” suggest this grander vision, as Walker and Hayter’s harsh vocals merge into a monstrosity of rage and hysteria. 

Only this unique meeting of minds could lay the foundation of “The Ocean of Mercy” by sampling an obscure mystic chant from the Bektashi Rufai sect of Islam. Hayter’s organ hangs over the the ritual like fog before her voice soars over white noise crescendos with commanding fervor. Her voice erratically pans back and forth in the mix in a way only one half of The Body could pull off.

Hayter’s voice remains the driving force on “Violent Rain,” this time fed through some vocoded harmonies in what’s essentially a protracted piano ballad. Walker again uses his voice as harsh noise, punctuating the atonal ambiance as it slowly engulfs the mournful melodies. Hayter’s ability to imbue impenetrable sound collages with palpable emotion leads the frightful sonics to a serene conclusion of whispery cymbal hits and beautiful chords.

Amid chilling low-end pianos, dissonant brass drones and blasts of harsh noise, the four-on-the-floor beat of “Drunk On Marrow” morphs into a house track from the bowels of hell. Wraith-like death rattles notwithstanding, the cross-section of sonic terrorism and unrelenting rhythm reaches further pitch on “Miles Of Chain.” Part harsh noise wall, part industrial dirge and part avant-garde chamber piece, the rippling ocean of eerie cacophony would be creepy enough without Walker spitting bile over the top.

In typical Bufford fashion, “Whom The Devil Long Sought To Strangle” is seemingly composed of samples of his own instruments. Whether it’s clattering acoustic strings or oscillated snare hits, it’s like hearing the infrastructure of a song fall into disarray. Walker and Hayter again layer their screaming styles in a unrelenting barrage of cathartic anguish, as the plodding rhythms carene toward a brain-melting conclusion.

The nearly nine-minute “Love Is Dead, All Love Is Dead,” ends Grave of a Dog with a stripped-down take on the album’s theme of existential despondency. After seven tracks of fighting and striving, the trio finally drifts into the abyss. Hayter’s heartbreaking voice and impressionistic piano echo in a chasm of churning sub-bass. The way she contrasts with the muted rhythms almost sounds like there’s a dance club down the street as she sits alone wallowing in her heart of darkness. It’s hard to think of a more fitting conclusion to such a vivid portrayal of grief, misery and misanthropy than the songs needles of feedback and nuanced crescendos.

Sightless Pit is the natural result of a circle of musicians continuously feeding off of one another. There’s no ego or aggrandizing—just unfiltered expression. Far more than a water-testing release, Grave of a Dog is a fully-realized manifesto from three indispensable bastions of impenetrable eccentricity.

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