Chelsea Wolfe: Abyss (Sargent House) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, June 4th, 2020  

Chelsea Wolfe

Abyss

Sargent House

Aug 06, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The first taste of Abyss was "Iron Moon," dropped and drop-tuned upon the Internet like the force of a thousand doom-metal bands' extraneous guitar rigs. It was pretty clear from the first sludgy measure that Wolfe had gone full metal, giving into that long-present proclivity with absolute gusto. That moment at four minutes and 20 seconds in, just crushing heaviness in a sea of ear-splitting feedback, was presumably rewound by many a seeker of dark decibels. So, too, will be much of Abyss. "Dragged Out," for example, follows up "Iron Moon" and is cut from precisely the same cloth—slow-burning sludge that explodes into a mess of deeply satisfying noise. Or the strident "Grey Days," which jumps from floor-tom-heavy verses, Wolfe's voice snaking around them to a refrain riff that is 100 percent headbanger. The "is it metal?" question will be presented at the next metal meeting. The "it's hipster metal" accusation will be flung acrimoniously, ceremonially by the metaler-than-thou.

One doubts Wolfe gives a second thought to this sort of debate, or into which genre her latest batch of songs falls. The album is genre-agnostic—maybe atheist; that seems more appropriate. Doom metal's just another trope in Wolfe's dark, atmospheric arsenal. And of course the bulk of the offerings here are identifiably not metal—"After the Fall," for example, is distinctly electronic, akin to the fare on Pain Is Beauty, all awash in off-kilter synth patches. Or opener "Carrion Flowers," which finds its power in pounding industrial beats, an impossibly broken bass tone, and the heaps of goth-ness one anticipates from Wolfe. Or the dark acoustic folk of "Crazy Love" or "Survive," later in the album.

So Abyss, like any Wolfe album, is a vast and immersive sonic universe, and her deepest and most personal yet. John Congleton deserves a shout-out as usual (the guy clearly doesn't sleep) for helping her perfect the vision, in much the same way he did with Swans' latest, to name another genre-straddling, dark and caustic act who also occasionally traffic in ornate beauty. Whatever you choose to label it, it is most certainly a massive and harrowing thing. (www.chelseawolfe.net)

 

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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