Her entire career, Chelsea Wolfe has flirted with some of the most unnerving genres on the planet: doom metal, darkwave, drone-folk, you name it. She's never hidden her love for heavier, more challenging music, and that's on full display on her sixth full-length Hiss Spun.
Opener "Spun" sets the tone early on with punishing low-end and her ethereal voice. These are tricks that have worked throughout her career: painfully slow tempos, droning guitars and her voice floating on top. I wouldn't be shocked if I was told Wolfe wrote her albums while locked in a room with nothing but Sunn O))) and the Knife records, given the way she uses her elegant voice against harsh backdrops of sound.
There's a twisted tenderness behind this record, with some lyrics finding some weird sweet spot between beautiful and macabre. On "The Culling," she tenderly whispers, "dead eyes / I only call you when you're in my dreams." Later, on top of a mountain of shoegaze-y guitars and crashing drums, she howls out "sweet dead eyes, I long to hear you again / sweet dead eyes, I long to see your face."
As in her previous work, this juxtaposition of very unattractive sounds and imagery with her tender vocals results in some very compelling material. This is a sound that Wolfe has refined and perfected, finding the common ground between folk and metal and, more importantly, making it sound beautiful.
Wolfe called Hiss Spun an "exorcism," and this is probably one of her most cathartic statements as an artist. "I wanted to write some sort of escapist music; songs that were just about being in your body, and getting free," she said about the record. Listening to Hiss Spun is a punishing affair, but it's a rewarding one too. It's the sound of an artist not afraid to dig deep emotionally, and that challenges the listener to do so as well. (Sargent House)