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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Chelsea Wolfe: Hiss Spun


1) Spun; 2) 16 Psyche; 3) Vex; 4) Strain; 5) The Culling; 6) Particle Flux; 7) Twin Fawn; 8) Offering; 9) Static Hum; 10) Welt; 11) Two Spirit; 12) Scrape.

General verdict: I'd take Babymetal over Chelseametal any time of day. At least it's a MUCH more fun challenge to come up with an existentialist interpretation of their music than it is for Chelsea's.

I guess it was bound to happen, sooner or later: Hiss Spun marks Chelsea's definitive conversion to heavy metal. It may be just a passing phase, of course, but looking back, it seems that all the roads were slowly leading to this point — and now we see Chelsea fortifying herself in the studio of Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou (who also makes an appearance on one of the tracks) and, in addition to her long-term musical partner Ben Chisholm, enlisting the services of Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens Of The Stone Age) and even inviting Aaron Turner of Isis to add growling vocals on one of the tracks. (It would be far more awesome if Chelsea learned to growl herself, though — the contrast with her siren-like falsetto could be mind-blowing!).

Does this help? Certainly not. Up until this point, it was still possible to sit on the fence about whether Chelsea Wolfe could be taken «seriously»; with this transition, her image is finally set in stone as that of an entertaining vaudeville performer, albeit still less entertaining than all those outlandish doom metal clowns — at this stage, I would much rather sit through, say, an Arch Enemy album (rage! terror! gore! giggles!) than through a set of songs on which an artificially somnambulant singer slowly makes her way across an interminable field of generic sludge metal riffs while trying to make you believe that she is "depleted by love", "ready to fall apart", and that she will "be hunting for you, buried under flowers".

The biggest problem is that this music does not properly work as a «horror show», either. Pure vaudeville has to be flashy, extravagant, buoyant, going all-out there. The guitar riffs of these songs, however, fail at this purpose, and so do the vocals, as Wolfe continues to be locked in her usual mood (Ophelian delirium) throughout the album — a mood that typically aspires to artistic seriousness rather than cheap thrills. And when you have a record that fails to deliver artistic seriousness and involuntarily lands face-first in a dish of cheap thrills instead, well, that is one of the worst things that could happen in art, as I'm sure your mother told you when you first tried to impress her with your poetry when you were eight years old. (That is, if you have / had a really mean, tough bitch of a mother).

I don't even want to write about any of the individual songs this time around. Listening to those endless tales of mental and physical abuse, alienation, rejection, sexual frustration, whatever, I feel like I am expected to want to reach out and give her a hug, but not a single one of these tracks goes deep enough into the soul to make me believe that she actually needs that hug (which I'd like to reserve for the likes of Beth Gibbons, or at least someone like Trish Keenan of Broad­cast — who was somehow much more capable of making you feel other people's pain without explicitly dwelling too much on it). As for the bombastic sludge that surrounds her vocals, well, I'd rather just listen to some proper Queens Of The Stone Age instead — they are not the best band in the world, but at least they are capable of kicking ass without any of that mock-Freudian bullshit. This here is a combination that does not even begin to work. Sorry.


  1. I am truly sorry to drag down the discussion, but my first reaction was, "what is that turd on the cover"? Then I realized it was a poetic depiction of the artist. Oops.

    For an example of a cute goth girl who really did master the black metal growl, I recommend the first album by Myrkur (the second one is much crappier, and actually has Chelsea Wolfe guest starring).

  2. Speaking about Babymetal... Please George, I would love to read that reviews.

    1. That first Babymetal album is surprisingly great. Gimme chocolate was the novelty track that went viral but Ijime same zettai is sincerely my favorite song of the 2010s so far