Live Reviews Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 11.21.28

Published on November 26th, 2015 | by Justin McDaid

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Chelsea Wolfe @ Button Factory, Dublin

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Chelsea Wolfe fans at this corner of Europe must have been keeping a close eye on the blogs and Twitter feeds over this tour, one fraught with trouble for the singer. A date in Poznan was cancelled due to Wolfe battling bronchitis. After losing her voice onstage in Budapest, the following night’s Vienna appearance was also cancelled, but the singer managed to gain the upper hand in the battle for the bronchial tubes to honour the rest of the schedule. In The Button Factory tonight, it’s as if each note is precious, each breath a blessing. Nothing is wasted. Wolfe barely utters ten words to the crowd all night.

‘Carrion Flowers’ blooms into life with Wolfe’s arrival and ‘Dragged Out’ emerges from its ashes with a wailing banshee of guitar effects, her falsetto at the final notes merging with the feedback to run into ‘Kings’. Her vocal and guitar are knitted together almost imperceptibly – voice and amp drone as one when things suddenly drop to a murmur, but even a soft interlude in this set is coated in distortion and dense, muggy chords.

Tonal mood changes are intensified with lighting that’s as illustrative to the music as that of a theatrical performance: warm, enveloping reds and blues, retina-pestering strobes, spots flaring like headlamps, a sudden illuminating flare where the quartet are momentarily framed as if frozen in a camera flash – a fleeting glimpse that piques the imagination and fans the mystique as much as the opaque fog in which they ply their wares.

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A charged stillness that descends as another fuzzing segue melts into the ether is punctuated by the odd whoop and holler from various points in the room; folk who need to fill a silence with something – cracking under the sonically bereft tension – as the ensuing unremitting drone leads into ‘Simple Death’.

An encore emerges from the remnants of distortion into a sound somewhere between a gale and an engine revving, as the whine of a note solidifies into the riff of ‘Survive’, and contrived thunder and lightning brings things to a rumbling crescendo with ‘Pale On Pale’. Wolfe leaves the band to it – to raise one final noise ruckus that’s eventually culled by the drop of the bassist’s hand.

As a whole, it’s a seamless but nondescript set – tracks forfeit the subtlety of their recorded form, beefed up with volume and distortion as they bleed into one another. There’s a reluctance to Wolfe’s stage presence; detached – subsumed by smoke, lighting effects and layered noise, as if she’s creating a cocoon in which to project from. It all coalesces into a distracting assault on the senses, one where the carnal songs that Wolfe constructs so forcibly seem overwhelmed, homogenised by the sensory chamber she seems to withdraw into in order to deliver them. Justin McDaid

Photos by Isabel Thomas

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