Album Reviews - Reviews

Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss


Treacle-thick tones and monolithic riffing set the tone immediately for Chelsea Wolfe’s latest excursion, Abyss. Long a much-fancied purveyor of doomy, layered heaviness, the record’s title is apt to say the least.

‘Carrion Flowers’ trudges along, industrial tinges emerging here and there in clatterslap percussion as Wolfe’s sultry voice blushes the whole thing with a beautiful fatalism, her range equally as enviable as her depth and strength as an artist. The mechanics of the record maintain consistency throughout, alternating between gentle, damned balladry, and guttural sludge in the likes of ‘Iron Moon’. ‘Dragged Out’s’ looping, keening highnotes invest a detached, banshee-esque quality over a progressively heavier sound. But it’s in gentler places, like ‘Maw’, where the record’s pace gets a chance to breathe, or stridently tight numbers like ‘Grey Days’ that Wolfe truly shines, a innovator at work. ‘Crazy Love’ is a haunted, tortured ode to its namesake, and its brevity, discord and repetition reinforce and summarise the atmosphere of the record: the line between being and nothing, knowing and instinct, love and obsession.

The thing of note about Abyss is the thing that makes Chelsea Wolfe such a breathtaking proposition in the first place: play with textures and layers. Every single track here is beholden, in a different way, to Wolfe’s ear for play between instruments, for tones, for her own voice’s quality and ability to rein the in or set them off as she sees it. It makes for beguiling music as ever, and Abyss is her most powerful work to date. Mike McGrath Bryan

Chelsea Wolfe plays Dublin’s Button Factory on November 25. Tickets here.


Contributor, distributor & occasional Cork correspondent for The Thin Air, as well as, Cork's Evening Echo and others. Likes some things, dislikes other things. Tweets, Instagrams and Snapchats at @mike_mcgb.