Chelsea Wolfe
Pain Is Beauty


3.5
great

Review

by Angel STAFF
August 27th, 2013 | 125 replies | 22,140 views


Release Date: 09/03/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Growing pains.

Chelsea Wolfe continues to make bigger and bigger waves in the underground music scene, amassing and uniting fans across a multitude of genres with her unique blend of diverse influences and distinctive yet varied vocal stylings, constantly difficult to pigeonhole. The term "gothic" is almost always used in conjunction with Wolfe and her music, though it tends to sell the artist and her often dark and dream-like works a bit short. Genre tags and descriptors have, for the most part, lacked the appropriate connotations and context to articulately describe Chelsea Wolfe's previous three albums, but this, her fourth full-length, plays into slightly more definitive archetypal tropes. Strong darkwave and industrial influences are present on a majority of the record's tracks, with the organic and heirloom feel of Apokalypsis and Unknown Rooms forsaken almost entirely, in favor of a polished and pulsating digital sheen. Peppered with a few throwback affairs, Pain Is Beauty commands a somewhat awkward dynamic, trying to coherently juxtapose pieces that are at odds with one another: Drum machines versus drums, synths versus guitars, present Chelsea Wolfe versus past Chelsea Wolfe. It is, however, a dynamic mostly remissible with the evident talent lining the walls of the vast majority of the album's twelve songs.

Moody and visceral with an atmosphere and intensity rarely rivaled for the duration of the album, "Feral Love" starts things off, setting the bar high for Wolfe's new sound. The track triumphs brilliantly in intertwining enchanting vocals with the cold, harsh throbbing of industrial synth and percussion before diffusing into "We Hit a Wall"'s analog saunter. Even more so than the aforementioned, the retro-indie sway of "Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter" sticks out sorely crammed in the middle of the album's electronics-heavy tracks and, while catchy, doesn't offer anything particularly original or exciting to compensate for crashing the party. Fortunately, the sublimely eerie "Sick" and sinister industrial carnival vibe of "Kings" quickly get things back on track, achieving familiar auras and sensations for the artist through unfamiliar mediums. The record slowly begins to put more of a spotlight on its star with "Reins" droning at a slow-motion gallop while exploring an intriguing frailty in Wolfe's voice akin to Björk in her prime. "They'll Clap When You're Gone" is Chelsea when she's at her strongest, which is really flexing the warm but haunting vocals that elevated Unknown Rooms from the throes that so often plague stripped-down anything. It emanates powerfully for almost six minutes, exuding a sincerity almost gut-wrenching following the partially mechanized psalms that precede it. The final two tracks are even more reminiscent of the previous album, beautifully simple and full of life, and while their relationship to the rest of Pain Is Beauty is unquestionably questionable, their sheer quality makes it easy to shut up and enjoy them anyway.

More than her previous efforts, this is a record that will make it easier to draw comparisons to both the works of other artists and her own, but Miss Wolfe succeeds in grossly outclassing her would-be peers more often than not and has managed to put her own stamp on an album that could have so easily been the second coming of Zola Jesus. While it's possible Pain Is Beauty would have benefited from some more time spent songwriting and fleshing out the overall direction of the album's sound, there's still more than enough impressive songs to make this a worthy addition to the Chelsea Wolfe catalog.



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user ratings (263)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Brenna K (4.5)
Massive goth rock with fallen angel vocals....


Comments:Add a Comment 
AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2013



16134 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Boo.

oltnabrick
August 26th 2013



30160 Comments


Agreed


Digging: Miyuki - Fellow Citizen

Relinquished
August 26th 2013



24480 Comments


inb4 acad

BallsToTheWall
August 26th 2013



44164 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

M/ AS FUCK

GiaNXGX
August 26th 2013



4867 Comments


weh

treeqt.
August 26th 2013



9025 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

accurate

TooLateToGoBack
August 26th 2013



1755 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

aoty

Lelle
August 26th 2013



2150 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

on my first listen, sounds good so far

Taxt
August 26th 2013



614 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review
Probably my favorite CW album

porch
August 26th 2013



8452 Comments


angel outta nowhere, was afraid antichristfish was gonna take your staff spot

ShadowRemains
August 26th 2013



20253 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2013



16134 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, we can't let that happen, now can we?

Chesse
August 26th 2013



529 Comments


so far this is pretty good

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
August 26th 2013



49802 Comments


Zach review yesssss

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2013



5921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

This is streaming from Pitchfork.

http://pitchfork.com/advance/195-pain-is-beauty/



I liked Αποκάλυψις, so I will be checking this out.

Good review Angel.



Edit: Recently I discovered a "similar" act to Chelsea Wolfe, named Agarttha. Their debut is streaming right here:

http://www.invisibleoranges.com/2013/07/stream-agarttha-a-water-which-does-not-wet-hands/

Digging: Essence Beyond - Carnivalism

Evreaia
August 27th 2013



3955 Comments


Review doesn't give me good hope

Digging: Monarch - Sabbracadaver

SmersH
August 27th 2013



404 Comments


Nice write-up... loved Αποκάλυψις
this is pretty good so far, mind you i'm only on the third track.

Digging: Low - The Curtain Hits the Cast

wwf
August 27th 2013



432 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

listening to this album at five in the morning and it's an instant feel train. first impression now that i'm on the last track is that it's a serious contender for aoty

Tyrael
August 27th 2013



20742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

love this

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
August 27th 2013



12107 Comments


prob p good

Digging: Secret Band - S/T



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