Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun album review
California’s scintillating chanteuse confronts her demons
Existential angst radiates from Chelsea Wolfe. She reveals a palpable discomfort when attention is focused upon her that is doubtless magnified internally; agonies with which we can all identify when trying to make sense of the chaos in the world around us. Seldom posing in front of a camera without shrouding her face in some way, she is portrayed backed into a corner on the cover of her sixth album Hiss Spun, ready to pounce – all wild things being at their most dangerous when in such a vulnerable position. And pounce she does, with her heaviest and most aggressive soundscapes yet, aided throughout by Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Troy van Leeuwen, further increasing the distance from her folk roots. Troy makes an instant impact, lending sultry riffs and eerie atonality to the disquiet of 16 Psyche, where Chelsea is at her enchanting best. Sorrowful and brazen, her voice channels a will to fight, be that against the threats of the outside world or inner demons. Vex’s soothing opening falls eventually into disarray, exploding in the bellicose rage of Sumac/ex-Isis frontman Aaron Turner, his chasm-rending roar providing Chelsea’s most overtly ‘metal’ moment to date. Bolstered by the production of Converge’s Kurt Ballou, the effect is fearsome. The latter part of the record sees the return of electronic environs past, the pulsing patter of Offering soothing inflicted wounds, while Two Spirit transmits itself across gossamer-thin guitar strings and Chelsea’s plaintive vocal. Previous album Abyss detailed her struggles with sleep paralysis; here Chelsea Wolfe is wide awake. She has weaponised her pain, continuing a very personal evolution, whose experimentations with and deviations from the world of metal prove just how brutally honest this music can be. Hiss Spun is a unifying experience, encouraging us all to stare down our demons.