Review Summary: Chelsea Wolfe reveals her final, fanged formHiss Spun
was inevitable, the signs were always there. From how early in the career Chelsea Wolfe was given a “doom folk” label due to lo-fi distortion in her ballads; to how her previous LP Abyss
had “Iron Moon” – a proper metal track (one of several), made in collaboration with label mates Russian Circles. Each successive album in Wolfe’s discography was bolder, meaner and Hiss Spun
is the culmination. Gone are the rustic ballads, gone are the DIY aesthetics of cheap amps and blown out speakers. This time everything is made of metal while elite team featuring Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age), Aaron Turner (Isis) and Kurt Ballou (Converge) made sure the surfaces are polished to a glossy mirror. Production is top notch, especially the drums. Kicks have the punchy bass while snares are wet and full-bodied.
Debut and sophomore albums were “doom folk”. Pain is Beauty
was “electro folk”. Abyss
– “industrial folk”. Well, you guessed it – Hiss Spun
is “metal folk” (folk metal?). Essentially it’s the aforementioned “Iron Moon" – The Album. Imagine being caressed and whispered things in your ear while getting punched in the kidneys: verses of sorrowful lullabies followed by explosive choruses. Or both at the same time. Unlike in most metal albums there’s no screams but Wolfe’s patented “empty room” vocals reach new heights (both literally and figuratively) above the sludgy guitar noise. Highlights include child-like murmur in “Vex”, siren falsetto in “Two Spirit” and panic-struck “Scrape”. While it’s by far her most homogenous and cohesive album to date, thankfully there are interludes to prevent fatigue. Namely a la Pain Is Beauty
electronic “Offering” and signature semi-acoustic dirge “Two Spirit”. Another reason why album doesn’t get tedious is that only few of the songs follow the traditional “verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus” structure.
is not without flaws though. Will it end up in year’s top lists? Hell yes. Does it get bonus points for expanding artist’s palette? Absolutely. But while Chelsea Wolfe’s previous albums showed something new, Hiss
metal sound does not break much of a new ground in the genre. Despite that it still will be a new experience for both her fans new to metal and in turn for metalheads who haven’t heard of Wolfe yet. Another annoyance is that unlike previous albums, Hiss Spun
lacks a good closer. “Scrape” is essentially a long crescendo without any climax or payoff. It ends abruptly and leaves you hanging, unsatisfied. One can’t help but think that at some point this spot was designated to “Welt” – a short, piano-based interlude that dies with an appropriately desolate whimper. Most Wolfe’s albums seem to have flow problems in the second half and it’s true this time too. While at the start Hiss
follows the classic “rule of three” composition, later on it becomes messy, with tracks interrupting each other.
In the end, female vocals are still a novelty in metal music and Spun
is a welcome addition. The question that pops up when an upcoming artist manages improve yet again: now that Chelsea Wolfe used genres from all around the spectrum in her uninterrupted, five-album streak of brilliance, where do you go next? Is she even capable of making a bad album?
Standout tracks: 16 Psyche, Two Spirit