Chelsea Wolfe Welcomes You To Her Nightmares On ‘Abyss’
Looking for some new uplifting folk music, designed to send you into a state of bliss and feel high on life? Go listen to Ben Howard, you won’t find that here.
As a fan of heavy music, one’s own discovery of LA singer/songwriter Chelsea Wolfe came through seeing approval towards her given by the likes of Converge’s Jacob Bannon and Deafheaven. Even when fully acoustic, Wolfe’s songs contain a darkness and sense of dread which is difficult to find any similar artist create as well.
Living with sleep paralysis has always played a role in Wolfe’s songwriting, however, fifth album 'Abyss' makes her experience of balancing on the lines between dreams and reality the primary album theme. Often, the music’s power actually drowns Wolfe out at points,emphasising feeling lost and alone amid her dreams. It also gives eminence to the words that do fully stand out, especially the chilling culmination of the closing monologue in final track An Abyss: “You will fall into chaos, as the night pulls me closer, and the sleeping drags me under, and my dreams steal your wonder, as we feed from the slumber.”
Using dreams as a source for songwriting allows Wolfe’s trademark darkness to come out in weirder ways than before, which can be heard on opener Carrion Flowers, as flashes of industrial synthesizers with a buildup of dense soundscaping immediately conjures an image of a dark alleyway on a rainswept night and a feeling that something is about to go horribly wrong, before her backing band (featuring Russian Circles’ Mike Sullivan on guitar) clashes into the mix, cascading the drama and grandeur of the song to escalate, summoning imagery of an empire which beats with a black heart.
Naturally, this sums up the tone for the rest of the album, as each track paints the saddest and eeriest landscapes. The droning riffs of Iron Moon vividly portrays a grey wasteland, as Wolfe states: “My heart is a tomb” in case the vibe wasn’t downbeat enough, while Simple Death features a minimal synthesizer beat and morose tone which brings forth images of empty motel rooms lit by candles, in the aftermath of that same horribly wrong event. Even the epic moments of the album like After the Fall’s chorus feel haunting.
And feeling haunted is the ultimate feeling that Abyss delivers, whether it be through samples of people screaming, violin trills or some awesome doom metal riffs. It’s a twisted piece of work that will leave you feeling a sense of desolation and fear much greater than many heavier bands that Chelsea Wolfe takes inspiration from, and though it may concern dreams, once you hear this album, falling asleep is the last thing you’ll be able to do.
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Words by Andy Davidson