Review Summary: A stunning release from the up and coming California native who creates music that is truly dark and hard hitting.
In a year where female songwriters are stepping up to the plate and delivering breakthrough albums it really doesn't come as a surprise that another female songwriter has emerged out of nowhere to deliver a stunning performance. The year belongs to Laura Stevenson and to a lesser degree Laura Marling but Chelsea Wolfe has come out of nowhere and delivered a spellbinding collection of 'spiritual realm funeral songs". Ἀποκάλυψις, the California artists second solo album, plods among the folk-pop framework of today's scene but injects with it a healthy dose of pitch black darkness. Chelsea Wolfe is an interesting individual to say at the least. Influenced by everything from Ingmar Bergman to Soviet literature, labeling her songs Estonian Industrial and performing vocal covers of Burzum songs, Chelsea certainly embraces a unique aesthetic which sets her apart from her peers, both personally and musically.
Ἀποκάλυψις is her second full length album yet I only caught on with this musician recently. Upon hearing the intro "Primal/Carnal" I was greeted by guttural screams leading me to believe this would be some kind of abstract noise/black metal record than anything else. "Mer" opens the album as the first "legitimate" song. beginning with a downbeat, psychedelic melody and smokey vocals the song maintains a slow doom like crawl for almost four minutes. However, the mood never transcends beyond gloomy from this point forward. The whole record plods in a funereal manner, incorporating heavy elements of psychedelia, doom metal and shoegaze with ominous percussion and hazy atmosphere. The album's sound is deep and full, sorrowful and shrouded in mist without sacrificing authenticity for cheap gimmickry. The emotion is real and the songs are textured and engrossing. Guitars grind away at the listener's ears while the distressing drumbeats forming an audio funeral procession. "To The Forest, Toward The Seas" even manages to tread into dark ambient waters. Fully instrumental, this song utilizes minimalist synth to compose a creepy composition that wouldn't sound out of place in an abandoned hospital or a submerged WW II submarine.
The real star of the show is Chelsea's ghostly vocal performance which greatly enhances the harrowing instrumental aspect. Trippy keyboard flourishes and somber guitar melodies co-coordinate with the minimalist songwriting approach taken by Chelsea resulting in a depressive, soul draining experience. Vocally, her performance reminds me of Marissa Nadler's collaboration with Xasthur on Portal of Sorrow yet with more actual singing than humming. This comparison has been stated on several occasions but it is something I strongly agree with. The usage of reverb lends a shoegazey feel to the record with the lyrical delivery being blurred out in a manner orthodox to the genre. That's not to say her vocals are undecipherable in any way it's just the tone of her voice and production sways it a bit. Chelsea sounds distant and foreboding yet sensual and warm. Kind of like a siren enchanting sailors with her beautiful voice before luring them to their death. The album's feature highlight "Pale on Pale" embraces all of Chelsea's strengths and takes form into one of the most menacing songs i've ever heard. Starting with a ominous riff which wouldn't sound too far off in a later Neurosis record, progressing with Chelsea's chilling voice and climaxing with a barrage of howls and screams, this track would be a fitting conclusion to the album. Instead you are greeted with two other tracks. One being the aforementioned ambient instrumental "To The Forest,Towards The Sea" and the other being "Movie Screen' a five minute piece that could have been used in The Shining's ballroom screen.
In conclusion, Ἀποκάλυψις, whatever the *** that means is an incredible record that needs to be heard. Anyone who enjoys the dark oppressive sounds of Neurosis, The Angelic Process or Grouper should definitely give this album a spin. The album is also a good recommendation to those who enjoy the darker strain of shoegaze, folk and indie rock.