Ethel Cain review – stirring sermons of love, God and murder

Omeara, London
Hayden Silas Anhedönia delivers a powerful set of sprawling, gothic pop under her Preacher’s Daughter persona

Receiving the spirit … Ethel Cain.
Receiving the spirit … Ethel Cain. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

“Ifeel like I’ve been waiting about a decade to get out here,” says Hayden Silas Anhedönia as she floats on stage in a vintage, puff-sleeve frock and poker-straight hair. This, Anhedönia announces, is her first London show as Ethel Cain – a name she has been clear is a persona she will use for a few albums, the first among them the sprawling, gothic pop of this year’s Preacher’s Daughter.

As her crystalline voice floats over the simple guitar-and-drums arrangement of Strangers, it becomes clear that those present are seeing something special: we are, as the Christian figure of Cain might put it, bearing witness. Preacher’s Daughter is a unique album: a heavy concept record about love, murder, exploitation and cannibalism, as well as a meditation on religion and patriotism’s places in the American psyche, which has inspired cult adoration. Tonight it’s credit to Cain’s deftness as a performer that she handles its complexity as though it were the most straightforward pop: her voice is lithe, and the long, coffin-shaped acrylic nails on the ends of her fingers catch the light starrily.

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