In her short but accomplished career, Chelsea Wolfe has shown herself to be a woman unafraid to confront the realm of darkness. She’s also not bashful when it comes to naming albums. Apokalypsis, Pain Is Beauty and Abyss are all bold, fully loaded titles, the kind which could leave Wolfe looking like a pretender peddling empty threats if she didn’t deliver on the connotations they produce. But if there’s one thing this enigmatic talent does with ferocity…it’s deliver!
Abyss is her fourth feature length production, and although perhaps not as consistently staggering as it’s predecessor, it houses some of Wolfe’s most powerful work to date. Blending dark and light dynamics is by no means a new trick, but it’s one that Wolfe has mastered with aplomb. The density of “Iron Moon” is a jarring, yet perfect example. The gentle, tender string plucking and brittle whisper of the singer’s voice sandwiched between terrifying bursts of doom metal is one of the most beautiful examples of brutality and heartbreak your likely to hear period.
It doesn’t begin and end there, though. The vast majority of the record really digs deep into the thorny dichotomy of terror and melancholy. On one side of the equation you have scuzzy, distorted feedback and controlled explosions of fury, grinding mechanics that not only anchor tracks like “Dragged Out” and “Carrion Flowers” but also give the album a jagged structure to build itself upon. This not only adds a heft of dramatic flair to the powerful and red raw emotion within her songwriting, but it also allows some of Wolfe’s more aggressive and abrasive tendencies to really blossom and come to fruition. The flip side to this is the quiet devastation that she causes with very little supporting her.
“Maw” cuts deep with very little force behind it — a large part of the song is made up of the singers drifting vocals, solemn single notes on her guitar and eerily, entwined strings which are somewhat reminiscent of the ice dance from Edward Scissorhands, albeit much darker and stripped down. “Crazy Love” see’s Wolfe go back to the basics and build a composition mainly around acoustic chords, however reverb and the downward spiral of strings that sit behind the core elements make for a much large larger sounding song. Likewise “Survive” utilises simple guitar work and vocals to similar effect whilst a building drum beat and a doctored, metallic ambience continues to unravel.
However, it’s not just inventive reshaping of previously used elements on show with Abyss. “After The Fall” is a track that utilises all of the above yet throws in the use of synthesisers, keyboards and electronics to dig a digital chasm. Wolfe has created various depictions of intensity through analogue and organic instrumentation in the past — getting a peek at what she could achieve if she was to go fully electronic sends a shiver of genuine excitement into the ether.
Dynamic, powerful, emotive and engaging in so many ways, Abyss is a dark, unashamed cave of brutal honesty. Wolfe has really hit her stride, yet still continues to look for new paths to orientate. Her album titles alone might sound like poems you’re likely to find in a high schoolers journal, but the passion, the power and the unflinching commitment to the ideas behind them make Chelsea Wolfe one of the most exciting solo artists on the market today.