Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
Density, weight and punishing intensity threaten to entirely submerge Chelsea Wolfe’s fourth album in a cloak of gothic camouflage. But peer behind the veneer and what do you encounter? Rather than the banshee figure one might expect, Abyss portrays a skilled songwriter at the peak of her game, capable of composing wonderfully harmonious, country-tinged laments – albeit drowning them in outlandish studio trickery and effects.
Accordingly, Abyss works best when some of the dressing is toned down, particularly in the glorious Crazy Love, where Wolfe’s magnificently descending vocals are contrapuntal to a cascading howl of sighing feedback. The effect is staggering and casts rare light on an album otherwise shrouded in mist and echoes of Wolfe’s sleep paralysis.
Elsewhere, Abyss veers from industrial stompers (as found in lead single Carrion Flowers) to glitchy, skipping electronica (Color of Blood) through wayward violins and elegant, skeletal piano (The Abyss). The danger is that this all teeters dangerously on the margins of self-parody as Wolfe manages to tackle all the traditional doom-laden goth touchstones over the course of the album’s hour. But when she emerges from the hue, the effect is often quite startling. [Colm McAuliffe]