Albums of 2015 #6 - Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

Chelsea Wolfe
Released August 7, 2015
Sargent House

Abyss sees Chelsea Wolfe fully embrace the darkness. The transformation from haunting, ethereal 'experimental' dark-folk to almost full-on metal that was more than hinted at on last year’s Pain is Beauty is complete and Abyss offers her most unwavering statement of intent to date. Here the guitars are back at the fore and the sound is as bleak as the album’s title alone indicates. The three tracks which open proceedings, "Carrion Flowers", "Iron Moon" and “Dragged Out” are enough to leave the listener a trembling, quivering mess alone.

 “Carrion Flowers” is terrifying, opening with pulverising, industrial noise and shuddering rhythms amongst shadowy, defiant vocals. A bigger opening track you will not hear this year. “Iron Moon” is a masterclass in the loud/quiet dynamic and keeps you on edge throughout. At its peak there are these frankly disturbing noises which beg you into submission, filled with heavy sludge-laden guitars and colossal vocal howls filled with intensity and then suddenly the track breaks and instead of dense maelstroms of brutal instrumentation you're listening to a tortured, naked voice with minimal accompaniment, raw, primal and shiveringly intimate. Despite her embrace of all things Gothic, there is emotional beauty never too far away.

On my review of her debut LP Apokalypsis four years ago now I said that Chelsea ‘recalls a PJ Harvey that has signed her life away to the occult’ and you can almost hear that on the likes of “Maw”, “Simple Death” and “Crazy Love”, the starkest tracks here, they act like the calm after the storm, both eerie guitar, atmosphere and vocal death-ballads that act as a breakwater to the brutality heard elsewhere and fill you with cavernous optimism and desire.

The atmosphere continues on the foreboding “Survive” and the rumbling guitars and military beats of “Grey Days” equally rewards yet the nightmarish vision of “Color of Blood” complete with fuzzy synths and distorted vocals. There’s much more that could be said about this outstanding album from this beguiling talent. Let’s leave it with an obvious statement. Chelsea Wolfe remains one of the most complete, ambitious and prolific artists around, we’re lucky to have her.

Chelsea Wolfe #13 - Iron Moon


It never feels like long between Chelsea Wolfe albums and indeed it's usually not. Her debut LP The Grime and The Glow came out right at the end of 2010 and in the four & a half years since we've had two more studio albums, an acoustic album and a live release (alongside various other projects). Given Pain is Beauty, Chelsea's third record came out in September 2013 that probably made yesterday's news of her fourth LP, entitled Abyss and due August 7th via Sargent House overdue.

The news came coupled with a stream of “Iron Moon“ a track which wastes absolutely no time in re-introducing her Gothic world, it's absolutely immense. The whole track is a masterclass in the loud/quiet dynamic in which Chelsea has excelled for ages, it keeps you on edge throughout. At its peak there are these frankly terrifying noises which beg you into submission, filled with heavy sludge-laden guitars and colossal vocal howls filled with intensity and then suddenly the track breaks and instead of dense maelstroms of brutal instrumentation you're listening to a tortured, naked voice with minimal accompaniment, raw, primal and shiveringly intimate, "Iron Moon" is everything you'd expect from Chelsea Wolfe and then some.

Abyss can be pre-ordered in Europe/UK by heading here.

My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Five - 9-6

My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Five - 9-6

Direct Links to Albums (updated as they become live) : 25 - 22 // 21 - 18 // 17 - 14 // 13 - 10 // 9 - 6 // 5 - 2 // 1

9. Chelsea Wolfe - Pain Is Beauty

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Chelsea Wolfe has been one of the most prolific artists of the last few years; two studio albums, a live release and an acoustic album (as well as a split 7" and tribute EP) all in a relatively short period of time and with never a sign of dropping quality either (and worldwide tours on top). Not one to rest on her laurels Chelsea released her third album Pain Is Beauty in September this year and it might have come as a little shock at first for fans, sure you can instantly recognise Chelsea Wolfe, it's eerie, haunting and made it the dark but it sounds altogether different to anything heard previously. Instead of dirty, sludgy riffs swathed in distortion and the doom-laden drums there's predominantly a stark, minimalist electronic sound to the album and it works perfectly.

"The Warden" sees a thin, ethereal vocal whisper float over stark, industrial beats and glittering synths, its ominously beautiful yet powerfully hypnotic, similarly both "Reins" and "Sick" are full of eerie, droning soundscapes with a cinematic atmosphere that could soundtrack a nightmarish film while "House of Metal" is staggeringly brilliant built around looping electronics and twinkling glockenspiel-esque sounds, pulling you deeper and deeper into Chelsea's immersive world.

There are moments where the scope and ambition far surpasses anything that has come before it, both "Feral Love" and "Kings" are full of electronic energy with a brooding repetition and insurmountable amounts of tension building, the night is long and full of terror indeed while "The Waves Have Come" surpasses both in terms size and scope, an absolute behemoth of a track. Guitars do make an appearance of course, "We Hit A Wall" is full of echoey guitar patters and doom-laden drums whilst closing track "Lone" is a soft acoustic lament that recalls lasts years Unknown Rooms album, all in all Pain Is Beauty soon becomes the most fully realised Chelsea Wolfe album from a prolific artist at the top of her game.

8. Lanterns on the Lake - Until The Colours Run

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Lanterns on the Lake's 2011 debut Gracious Tide, Take Me Home was a stunning introduction to a beautiful, expansive group. The Newcastle quintet returned (with a slightly different line-up) in early September with Until The Colours Run, an album that takes their cinematic and emotive song-craft to an even higher level with sweeping, progressive atmosphere and pure, majestic beauty.

Opener "Eloide" sets the tone with a slow-burn build the ideal combination of beautiful quiet and aural storm, its bedazzling instrumentation shimmers and the heart-melting vocals of singer-songwriter Hazel Wilde remain in perfect unison as it aims straights for your guts. "The Buffalo Days" similarly beguiles with its vocals firmly at the fore around restrained acoustic guitar and a creeping mist of haunting instrumentation which only adds to the delicate, natural sounding melody.

The title track sounds as dynamic and fresh as anything the quintet have released so far, sweeping you off your feet with kaleidoscopic instrumentation bustling with life, bright and dramatic it's in direct contrast with the albums next track "Green and Gold", the most heart-stirring of moments where Hazel takes solitary control with here soft, twinkling piano keys, emotive vocals and the most intimate of lyrics ("well this was the part where you picked up and started again, you learn fear is just a fleeting thing"...). It's quite devastating.

The albums centre-piece though is "Another Tale From Another English Town", a track which manages to encompass together everything you think of when you think of Lanterns on the Lake, a  luscious, tinged-in-melancholy track where strings swoon over gentle but gripping landscapes. In summary Until The Colours Run is a complete delight and the perfect accompaniment to a nice long drink of whisky - I don't think there is a highest compliment to be paid than that!

7. Daughter - If You Leave

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I've written a lot about Daughter since my initial introducing post in November 2010, two and a half years later an expanded trio released their debut If You Leave and with it fulfilled all those superlatives and some more with the most potent combination of intimate song-writing, widescreen instrumentals and one of the most emotional and haunting voices in music.

"Youth" is the track which has most come to signal both the bands progression and that of their fan-base, the track has grown since its original place on The Wild Youth EP with textured drums, shimmering guitars and a pulsating heartbeat more prevalent than ever, characteristics of the progressive Daughter sound, yet still Elena's lyrics remains as bare-souled and enchanting as ever, striking hard with a pure-affecting vulnerability and heartbreaking power. When I heard the track met with a huge roar of excited squeals at recent live shows, the sort of squeals you'd normally associate with X Factor type acts, the trio's journey was made real, Elena's little giggle and smile summed up their feelings perfectly too.

The rest of the album is a masterclass in wounded, confessional lyrics which provide goosebumps moments at almost every turn, "Smother" tugs at your heart strings with its vulnerable guitar lines, the fragile "Shallows" is as tender and restrained as it gets and "Tomorrow's" slow-burn ambient electronic washes provide an emotional overload, slowly swelling around incremental progression as glacial guitars and rumbling percussion gradually become the focus of the track.

"Human" provides a fiery rest-bite to the intimacy but it is the stark, wounded lyrics and Elena's gorgeous voice, capable of healing any number of wounds that stays with you longest when this exceptional debut is over.

6. Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle

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Laura Marling, it is incredible to think that she is still only 23, already possesses a timeless collection of material and is armed with the ability to bring together people from all warps of life in awe of her talent and masterful song-writing skills. Her fourth album Once I Was An Eagle came out in the Spring and is, for me at least, the sign of an artist taking a mighty step up from already impressive highs and producing her most consistent piece of work to date.

Instrumentally stark the focus is on Laura's guitar and words with the odd bit of carefully-placed drums or orchestral swelling, it's darker and heavier than anything Laura's released before and there's also an excellent use of space and prose throughout. Once I Was An Eagle is an album in every sense of the word, it can be a demanding experience and it commands to be listened to as one, in fact the first five tracks play into one another like an epic story, the triple hit of "I Am An Eagle", "You Know" and "Breathe" mark the highlights for me, rising and falling with rich flourishes of depth, beauty and adventure. Laura's voice is distinctive and powerful enough to hold your attention and the lyrics combine to be a cohesive one. It's near pefection.

Elsewhere there are moments of true beauty like "Once", a simple and beguiling beauty. The solo acoustic tracks are arguably where Laura strikes hardest and here her plucks and devastating tone are pure, heartfelt and beautiful while "Master Hunter" shows the other side of Laura's arrangements, dazzling around bold, organic percussion.

There are more breath-taking moments too such as "Little Love Caster" and the closing track "Saved These Words". In total it's sixteen tracks and over an hour long with a deep, powerful narrative that keeps on giving and still leaves me breathless (even after hearing the tracks a good twenty times or so). In summation, what we have is an extraordinary piece of work from one of this generation's true stars - simply a magnificent achievement.

Chelsea Wolfe #12 - A Take Away Show

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If you've followed this blog for a while you'll probably be aware of these two things. One I absolutely bloody love Chelsea Wolfe and secondly, I think La Blogotheque and their A Take Away Shows are some of the best live sessions to grace the Internet. I've posted about them numerous here before, now here's another one, a match made in heaven I'd say...

It sees Chelsea strips back two tracks from this years full-length Pain is Beauty and comes as the perfect reminder that less can be more. These versions of "Lone" and "House of Metal" make the albums title resonate deep, bringing a tortured intimacy to "House of Metals" not there on the original, it strips all signs of the electronic energy and strings prevalent on the album version and leaves the tracks core as a wounded acoustic lament whilst the albums closing track "Lone" is similarly drowned in emotion, as spine-tingling moment as heard this year, nothing more than a sole acoustic whose shadowy strums guide Chelsea's haunting, hymnal vocals - the result is simply devastating.

The album is staggering - make sure you own it - you can now via Sargent House.

Chelsea Wolfe #11 - We Hit A Wall

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On the first single we heard from Chelsea Wolfe's forthcoming album Pain Is Beauty we were all here talking about a slight change in direction, the starker, more synth led sounds of "The Warden" were ominously beautiful with Chelsea's distinctive ethereal voice butterfly soft amongst glittering electronics, a track which took a much less obvious route to sharing the darkness, now we've got the second track, one which is sure to resonate hard with those who perhaps weren't expecting "The Warden's" departure...

"We Hit A Wall" has the a title of a group of marathon runners worst nightmare and could soundtrack it too, much more akin to the nightmarish atmosphere of her previous records, from the instant echoey guitar patterns and doom-laden drums kick in you're transfixed with the tracks brooding repetition and haunting brilliance.

Chelsea Wolfe returns to the UK in late October to tour the record which comes out the month before via Sargent House. You'll want to take notice of both.

Chelsea Wolfe #10 - The Warden

Chelsea Wolfe has been one of the most prolific artists of the last few years; two studio albums, a live release and an acoustic album which brought together some tracks which pre-dated her official debut and some new tracks too, all those different releases in a relatively short period of time and never the slightest hint at dropping quality (and worldwide tours on top). Not one to rest on her laurels Chelsea has announced her next album Pain Is Beauty for release on 3rd September via Sargent House.

To whet the appetite further there's a stream of the lead single "The Warden" and it might come as a little shock at first, sure you can instantly recognise Chelsea Wolfe, it's eerie, haunting and made it the dark but it sounds altogether different to anything heard by Chelsea previously. Gone are the dirty, sludgy riffs, the heavy guitar chords swathed in distortion and the doom-laden drums and instead we're here listening to a minimalist synth-pop track, I'm honest enough to admit it took me a couple of listens to adjust although I'm now a fully paid subscriber.

Chelsea's thin, ethereal whispers float perfectly over stark, industrial beats, softened and echoey amongst glittering synths "The Warden" remains bleak yet powerfully hypnotic, altogether hinting perfectly at the albums title, beautifully intimate.

Also make sure you check out the stunning live version of "Feral Love" below, another track which is on Pain Is Beauty - fear not all you dark metal-heads!. I'm excited for this album a lot, nervously excited, just the way you should be when one of your favourite acts releases something new.

Chelsea Wolfe #9 - Fight Like Gods

Hope all of you who set out to enjoy Record Store Day did just that, mine was relatively successful if not quite my normal because I had my daughter in tow. I walked into Rough Trade West at about 3pm, handed my list to the guy behind the counter and they had all six records I wanted, add in an No Joy LP and I was walking out of the shop ten minutes later. No rummaging through the racks this year for miscellaneous treats as I'd promised a trip to get waffles and milk not vinyl! Anyway, one I didn't have on my list because it was a US only release was a split 7" with Chelsea Wolfe and King Dude, the latter I've not heard of, the former I have, and featured here on numerous occasions...

Chelsea's track is a new one, "Fight Like Gods", which like so many of her songs it exists in the half light, doom-laden drums, heavy guitar chords swathed in distortion and a raw and painful mood lead the purposely slow paced, sprawling track. For much of the duration it threatens to spill out to the dark, half demented highs of a "Demons" or "Mer" but it remains restrained and anguished and is beautiful for it, like her more recent acoustic LP, "Fight Like Gods" is haunting as well as bone-chilling and unnerving yet still somehow softly it soothes. The last minute is just spine-tingling. Chelsea Wolfe, yet again, confirms herself as one of the most breathtaking musicians of today.

I'm also very happy that Chelsea starts a month long UK/Euro tour this week hitting London's Cargo (I hate this place and am breaking my avoiding of it for one night only!) on May 9th - full dates.

Chelsea Wolfe #8 - The Way We Used To

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Almost as sure as day, when Chelsea Wolfe releases a new track I meet its arrival with endless superlatives, when I last talked about Chelsea (the exceptional "Flatlands") I mentioned my excitement ahead of the release of her forthcoming acoustic album, now titled (Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs) and due for release on October 16th through Sargent House... 

Now consider that excitement quadrupled for Chelsea has shared a track from the album, the hauntingly beautiful "The Way We Used To", which retains the dark, ethereality of her earlier work, though through its bare, stripped back nature loses some of the dramatic bleakness and tension which shrouds the likes of "Moses" or "Demons". That isn't to say the track is light and sunshine, with little more than the gentle pitter-patter of toms, ghostly guitar lines and mournful hymn-like harmonies leading to Chelsea's hushed whispers "The Way We Used To" is undoubtedly full of thoughtful, eerie space and also undoubtedly beautiful.

So, including the live version of "Flatlines", the two indications we've been given so far make me think that this release is going to be something beyond special. Can't wait.