Review Summary: Chelsea Wolfe gives new definition to the phrase “facing your demons”.
Chelsea Wolfe’s bleak union of neo-folk and gothic rock has often focused on inner struggles. 2013’s “Pain Is Beauty”
romanticised over the collapse of a dreamlike love and on 2015’s “Abyss”
she explored the emptiness of her heart. On her new album, “Hiss Spun”
, she crawls further inward as the overwhelming mayhem of the world begins to surround her.
Throughout “Hiss Spun”
, anxiety, depression and desperation are embodied as their own entity as Chelsea often describes the behaviour of these tangible emotions in her lyrics through personification and animalistic mannerisms, frequently addressing them as “you” to emphasise the predatory nature one’s emotions can have on their body further. During “The Culling”, these feelings are maliciously characterised as ‘a tongue on your pulse/a finger in your wound’. “16 Psyche” feels even more aggressive as the feelings are described as an act of physical violation when they ‘…crawl up my legs/ Let me wrap you up in these thighs’. Music that sounds this profound and this applicable is seldom found when illustrating a sense of mental illnesses nowadays as it is something sufferers shy away from addressing whereas, across this album, Chelsea Wolfe stares unblinkingly into the dead eyes of her own demons.
Naturally, the instrumentation over the album emphasises the gravity behind the lyrics and Kurt Ballou assists greatly in creating the rabid, unpredictable rawness of the darker aspects of the record and making the lighter moods, particularly in her fragile singing, sound as innocent, pensive and flexible as possible. Though “Hiss Spun”
may be her second album to lean towards metal, it skillfully combines a variety of sounds. “Offering” is the most optimistic sounding track with its softly spoken vocals and neon guitars, whereas ebbing electronics and itching samples in “Strain” make you feel as if you’re trapped in some cold, lightless chamber. Straight after, “The Culling” continues this sensation with alarming electronics and a gradual climax leading to a psychosis as you succumb to the isolation of your own existence.
There is a constant sense of conflict in every part of “Hiss Spun”
where the atmospheres the instruments, the vocals and her lyrics battle against each other. “Spun” is a track that flaunts its black beauty with a morose, authoritative doom riff that claws its way over her smooth, pristine cooing. Girlish, ghostly whispers introduce “Vex” which float freely above a simple, pulsating bass rhythm, however, demonic growls from Aaron Turner (Sumac, ex-Isis) penetrates this safe environment and brutality reasserts its dominance over the remaining moments- a reminder that these dark feelings are always lurking in the background and can pounce at any moment. “Two Spirit” masterfully presents this internal conflict sonically where Chelsea’s ethereal singing actually describes the effect misery has on someone and how inescapable it can be; even pronouncing that it will have you “screaming through the afterlife.” Furthermore, even the phrasing ‘two spirit’ captures this duality of entities fighting inside a single spirit. Chelsea Wolfe has this uniquely ingenious way of injecting so much passion into her music through these small, subtle features in a seemingly effortless manner.
continues the personal and musical evolution that she has developed over six albums and experimenting with metal more prominently proves how honest and evocative her music can be. Expansive in the sound and passion it releases, “Hiss Spun”
is marked as the most cohesive manifestation of Chelsea Wolfe’s sound so far, as she handles life’s tumults by retreating into the corners of her own self in order to escape the overwhelming negativity of everything else around her.