Chelsea Wolfe is very much unlike any of her contemporary indie singer-songwriters. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Black and Doom Metal, and having a real affinity for the dark, she dares to dabble in areas that not many artists in today’s musical landscape would dare. Therefore, there’s much more than the average “doom and gloom” to Wolfe’s haunting soundscapes and blurred vocals; this being most evident on her latest effort, Abyss.
Rewind just five years earlier, Chelsea Wolfe introduced herself and her unique songwriting approaches and dark folk-meets-neo-psychedelia her debut album, 2010’s The Grime and the Glow. However, it wasn’t until her follow-up, 2011’s Apokalypsis, that her droning Goth Rock style began to take shape. She went even further with 2013’s Pain is Beauty, incorporating more synthesizers and electronic textures.
Fans of Goth, Shoegaze, Doom and Black Metal alike began to take notice, although the signature heavy/distorted guitars of said styles were either not present, or set somewhere in the background.
This is certainly not the case for Abyss, Wolfe’s noisiest and heaviest effort yet. Inspired by her own experience with sleep paralysis, the album is truly the soundtrack to a 3 a.m. nightmare. Opening track, “Carrion Flowers,” sets the tone with a terrifying Post-Industrial wall of synth noise that’s enough to give Trent Reznor or Nivek Ogre nightmares! From there, the volume hits 11 with the guitar-heavy “Iron Moon” and “Dragged Out.” The opening trio of songs set the tone for what’s to come, while successfully catching the ears of new and old fans, as it’s not exactly what one might expect from Chelsea Wolfe… until now!
Chelsea Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Instagram.
From there, the piano driven “Maw” changes the pace sonically, while only descending deeper into Wolfe’s terrifying trip. Tracks like “Grey Days” and “After the Fall” showcase Wolfe’s lyrical ability, creating moods and emotions not unlike a painter’s brush on a canvas. “Crazy Love” and “Survive” nod to earlier material with a Goth-Folk vibe, with “Simple Death” and “Color of Blood” let ambiance take the lead. Finally, the droning “Abyss” closes the record with an eerie detuned piano and haunting string session, placing the listener into Wolfe’s mental state following the series of night terrors.
Don’t let the over-bearing darkness fool you, Abyss is equally beautiful as it is haunting. Chelsea Wolfe has a real raw emotive power to her voice, much in the way of PJ Harvey. She could bring a room to tears, or perfectly erupt into the noise of her band at any given moment, while barely raising her voice. This album is the sound of Chelsea Wolfe in prime, both as a songwriter and an artist who is continually challenging herself, yet successfully remaining true to her roots.
All in all, Abyss is Wolfe’s best work yet. This is a true testament to artistic progress. Standout tracks include “Carrion Flowers,” “Dragged Out,” After the Fall,” “Survive” and “Abyss.” This album is great for new fans. Those who appreciate the work of Curve, Om, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Swans or early Nine Inch Nails and PJ Harvey should find instant appeal.
Chelsea Wolfe will kick off a North American tour alongside Wovenhand on Aug. 27 in Las Vegas. Abyss is out Aug. 7 via Sargent House Records.