Chelsea Wolfe's Abyss Is A Harrowingly Beautiful Album [VIDEO]

Chelsea Wolfe’s Abyss Is A Harrowingly Beautiful Album [VIDEO]

Chelsea Wolfe is a tricky artist to categorize. She often gets described as “gothic folk,” but has drawn on elements of electronica, industrial noise and, at times, metal. Hell, she covered Burzum’s “Black Spell of Destruction” and managed to outdo the original, which is no mean feat. But her latest album, Abyss, dives headlong into metal, with stunning results.

Wolfe’s greatest weapon is her voice, which is ethereal and haunting, yet has the power to stand out against the unearthly sounds that fill the album. Wolfe employs a pallette of strings, synthesizers, deeply distorted guitars, and a menacing bass sound that hits you in the guts. Many of the tracks on the album hew to a similar pattern: a simple, stark verse, where Wolfe’s voice stands almost alone, followed by an explosion of a chorus. It’s a simple formula, but it works perfectly here. And the reason is that Wolfe has a complete mastery of the sound she is trying to achieve. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is accidental. Each sound is calculated to produce a desired effect. That may sound stifling, but it isn’t. This is a living, breathing album that moves with the stark menace of a perfect predator.

Take the bubbly synth line that erupts midway through “After the Fall,” which struggles along valiantly before being devoured by processed strings, heavily fuzzed guitar, and Wolfe’s otherworldly howls. That small moment of breath makes what follows all the more crushing. Or “Survive,” possibly the closest track on the album to something that might be called “folk.” It begins with simple acoustic guitar and Wolfe’s voice and gradually introduces sounds low in the mix that rise and take over before the whole thing breaks into a gallop and explodes. Album opener “Carrion Flowers” is straight-up doom metal, bludgeoning the listener into submission over an eviscerating beat. And “Maw” rides a lurching guitar line, seemingly on the verge of falling over at any minute, into something that ends up being almost a pop song.

Every sound is intentional and perfectly placed, which makes Abyss a wonderful album to listen to on headphones. The title track, and album closer, is filled with odd noises and bumps and a frantic string section all moving about in the mix in a way that is both disorienting and unsettling. It makes for a lovely conclusion to a close to perfect album.

Lyrically, Abyss is bleak, in keeping with the album’s sound. Take “Iron Moon,” which alternates hushed passages with walls of beautiful noise, and ends thusly:

“My heart is a tomb.

My heart is an empty room.

I’ve given it away.

I’ve swallowed the iron moon.”

Abyss is a harrowing listen. It is bleak and stark and filled with strange rumbles and screeches. And it demands attention. You can’t just throw this on the stereo and go about your day. Yet, for all that, it achieves a haunting beauty. Wolfe has created a unique sound, mixing folk and experimental noise and enough metal to demand that you play this one loud. It would be a lovely soundtrack to sitting on a roof in a crumbling city, drinking, and waiting to watch the world end.

Abyss comes out on August 7th and is available to preorder.

Listen to “Iron Moon” below:

Image: Jeffrey Peters Creative Commons

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Akira Watts failed to graduate with a B.A. in philosophy from Amherst College and now does an assortment of IT related things. He has been writing a nebulously plotted literary choose-your-own-adventure work for the past five years. He lives in Santa Fe, NM with a small fish and a cat the size of a yeti. Before joining the team at Reverb Press, Akira was a frequent contributor at READ MORE BY AKIRA.