Pain is Beauty
Sep 04, 2013 Web Exclusive
Greek mythology album references aside, there's something about Chelsea Wolfe's work that brings Pandora's box to mind. For all the crazy bullshit that pours out, there's always a kernel of something hopeful to clutch onto.
A huge part of Chelsea Wolfe's appeal lies in her ability to balance. She's juggling vulnerability and power: feathery voice with lurching drums, or singing out with little else to buoy her. Though she's presented a slightly different M.O. on every album since The Grime and the Glow—everything from lo-fi to metal to an exceptionally gothic take on folk—that balance serves as the through line in all her artistic output. Pain is Beauty splits equal time between opulent string sections and lean beats, a set of songs that are at once pointed and adrift.
Despite the appetite for genre exploration, Beauty exhibits some constants: it stays passionate and invested while still seeming distant, probing the ghosts of emotions instead of getting completely immersed in the moment. "They'll Clap When You're Gone" is all reverb and echo, a feeling of rattling around an empty room looking for an escape hatch. And though it's more of a straightforward ballad, "The Waves Have Come" imparts the same feelings. They're tense and uneasy the whole way through, but listening to them still feels like catharsis. (www.chelseawolfe.net)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10