So, here we are, just over a month into 2024, and already one of the albums of the year is due for release on the 9th February by Loma Vista Recordings.
After several years of working with other artists, such as Converge, and apart from the occasional track to keep things ticking over, such as the haunting Anhedonia, which was the perfect pairing with Emma Ruth Rundle, the all-powerful mistress of darkwave goth electronica, Chelsea Wolfe, is back, and this time the sound is more vibrant than ever.
Losing nothing of the uniqueness, but with extra added layers of industrial electronica in the mix, Chelsea has sights set on the crown. With these ten tracks, there’s nothing stopping her from taking the title of empress of the dark musical arts, and leaving the bar set so high, it will be nigh on impossible for any other artist to hit the level set ever again.
With Birth Of Violence now being five years old, the wait for this new material has been worth every second, let me tell you that. From the opening seconds to the dying moments, this album is a masterclass in symmetry and style. Dark moments are perfectly paired with lighter ambient passages, and more vivacious highs come with crushing parallels too.
Opening with Whispers In The Echo Chamber, from the instant the sonic darkness starts, the listener is propelled right into Chelsea’s vision. It’s like a smothering embrace, close and suffocating. Sinister too, the anxiety inducing closeness is rich, like a thick black smoke. At high points, it would be easy to compare to Nine Inch Nails, and particularly Trent Reznor style industrial soundscapes, but this is also so very much Chelsea Wolfe through and through. Such a welcome return, and even after only one track, you can guarantee the remainder of the album is also going to be just as intoxicating.
House Of Self-Undoing wastes no time in solidifying just where Chelsea is in 2024. A fully charged opening sets the scene and it’s a real up-tempo powerhouse of a track. Again, it mixes elements of goth and industrial, to devastating effect, its beautifully uplifting too. There are also traces of dance music beats in the mix, not so much The Prodigy though, more another nod to those NIN sensibilities.
Everything Turns Blue gives a sense of familiarity to those old school Chelsea Wolfe nuances with an overall vibe that would easily have fit on to either of the previous albums. It’s here where the warmth for me with her music especially lies. It feels like home, yet by the same token, there’s an evolution too.
Tunnel Lights is a dark sultry number, intense, and dark in tone. Its breathtaking while The Liminal flows through and is the benchmark for everything I love in Chelsea’s work. A deep, dark masterpiece created with elements of heavy, uncomfortable dankness, which perfectly offset softer moments of rich ambience.
This is dark electronica at its best, beautifully restrained, and completely immersive…
Eyes Like Nightshade is where it all seems to veer off in an unexpected way. There is a feeling of eastern meets western in the soundscape, with downplayed techno beats interspersed with vibrant cymbals giving off those hypnotic rhythms, while she playfully and sultrily vocalises above it all, as if lighter than air. I must admit, with this I am drawn towards comparison with Fever Ray more than anything else, but I think that’s more for the vibe than it is for the sound.
As is the way with Chelsea Wolfe, by the time Salt is in full swing, it’s back to trademark dynamics, and the ambient electronics overlaying a toned-down drum pattern is monumental. This is dark electronica at its best, beautifully restrained, and completely immersive.
Unseen World once again pulls in on those ambient dance vibes, and with me, comparisons to Lamb. The whole sound, especially here, for this new album feels so much bigger then on previous releases, and while it smacks at being a more commercial direction, at the same time, I feel that its vastly more accessible to a wider audience. I can see this bringing in a larger crowd to the darkness, but that is no bad thing at all. The reality is that Chelsea Wolfe is such an incredible artist that a bigger following would be totally deserved and will hopefully push fans in the direction of other likeminded artists too.
With track nine, Place In The Sun, there is a feeling of being stripped down to the bare bones. Pensive, dark, and colder, she pulls us in to her pain, with a sorrowful performance, emotionally charged, yet woefully sad.
Dusk, the final act on the opus, is, for me, the full encapsulation of just how far she has come with this record. Absolutely sublime, hypnotically overwhelming, it is here where I can say, without any doubt, the true wonder of Chelsea’s majesty resides. Beautifully underplayed, whimsical, yet full of warmth and passion, this track just exudes class from every pore.
To come away from this album with anything less than the highest regard for it would be a travesty, as, in all honesty, it has blown me away. With the announcement of an intimate acoustic show at London’s Rough Trade East in April, which I have already bagged a ticket for, this year is going to be all about Chelsea Wolfe for sure. Considering all the similar artists out there now within this sub-genre of music, this album should be the gold standard to aim towards, as it is, from start to finish, the most wonderful display by an artist who is second to none. Truly magical, full of dark love, and something very special indeed.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish