For months now Chelsea Wolfe has been teasing fans one track at a time about what to expect on her fifth full-length album Abyss. If Iron Moon and Carrion Flowers were anything to go by, it was obvious she’d discovered the gain knob on her amplifier, as both tracks were heavily awash with distortion. Upon closer inspection, it seems that her tours and collaborations with the likes of Wovenhand, Russian Circles and Deafheaven have been rubbing off as this newer material is darker than anything she’s previously produced and heavy as heck.
So how does the rest of the album fare against what we’ve been able to sneak a peek at thus far? Tracks such as Dragged Out are morbidly seductive, while Crazy Love is chilling, disjointed and beautiful all at the same time. It seems that Chelsea’s modus operandi for Abyss is to perpetually challenge and unnerve the listener. This record sees Wolfe become more than just “experimental musician” and fortifies her right to really call herself an artist – pooling from an obviously broad array of musical knowledge – Chelsea has crafted together her trademark ghostly vocals with tortured guitar sounds, distorted effects and dark electronica to create a sweet yet scary collection of gothic lullabies.
This is a vast and immersive sonic universe to find oneself falling into, yet one that will satisfy the seekers of sombre decibels. Of course we can’t applaud Chelsea Wolfe for her seas of ear-splitting feedback without of course giving a complimentary nod to producer John Congleton. Having previously worked on Swans’ latest record, it’s no wonder that Abyss took on the guise of nightmarish vision, but it’s certainly a good thing as the sound throughout this record is massive.
Chelsea suffers from sleep paralysis and is quoted as having said that the intent of this album is “to have the feeling of when you’re dreaming, and you briefly wake up”. Hardly surprising then that each track is full of moments that are jarring and horribly unsettling – even the opening track bursts forth with a force that will take your breath away if you aren’t prepared for it – a stark difference to the slow burn and build up we’ve heard on previous releases. Of course the twists and turns become pleasant as you become accustomed to them and you will even come to anticipate the erraticism, welcoming the shocks they induce.
Vocally, Chelsea exerts herself more than she ever has on previous releases, however, the instrumental aspects of the music are still very much at the forefront and her voice takes a backseat or disappears altogether during some of the louder more chaotic moments. This is without a doubt Wolfe’s most ambitious work to date and an interesting new direction for her musical career to take. It answers hundreds of questions about whether or not she planned to take a more “metal” approach with her music, yet raises a hundred more about whether she will continue on this path or change direction again.
For now, speculation is futile; just lay back and enjoy the fall into the abyss. It’s dark and it’s scary but once you’re in you’ll never want to leave.
Scribed by: Angela Davey