7th August 2015 – Sargent House
01. Carrion Flowers
02. Iron Moon
03. Dragged Out
05. Grey Days
06. After The Fall
07. Crazy Love
08. Simple Death
10. Colour Of Blood
11. The Abyss
It takes a spectacular level of songwriting to create a level of darkness that doesn’t feel contrived or false. Chelsea Wolfe – self-styled mistress of the darkness – crafts the shadows in which monsters dwell, and since her first releases in 2009 has gathered a worldwide congregation of loyal and die hard fans. Does this new album – and Abyss in both name and vision – come close to her previous incantations?
Opener “Carrion Flowers” doesn’t so much creep into its own abyss as wades in carried on wings of doom metal guitars. Heavily distorted and surging, whilst Chelsea’s vocal lurks, they hammer down and the depth becomes almost palpable. “Dragged Out” chimes in with an atmosphere that is well and truly hazy – but at the same time you can’t help but feel yourself floating away with its darkened charm.
Chelsea has said that these songs are inspired by the experience of sleep paralysis, a condition from which she’s suffered for most of her life. When you get to “Maw” this metallic edge gives way to a more restrained shoegaze approach. Its melancholy feels insidious and wistful at the same time’; Chelsea’s vocals breathe slowly and carefully, and “Grey Days” lets the depression take over, and the feeling of loss inside yourself is made ever more intense with swirling strings and electronic reverb.
The earlier folk sound with which Chelsea Wolfe had become synonymous returns with a dose of “Crazy Love“, enrapturing in an undercurrent of wailing violin and that classic folk acoustic guitar. “Survive” pairs that creeping goth-like feel with SWANS-esque tribal drumming and fuck tonne of feedback; it’s one of the more dense tracks on the record, but in many ways also the most dynamic.
As “The Abyss” rounds out the album in the most haunting and beautiful way, it becomes clear just how vigorous and compelling the soundscapes on this record are. How a song can flit between cinematic horror and decadent dark wave, with the ever present lingering of something in the corner of your eye, is charismatic to the extreme. This album is an ode to sleep paralysis, a well delivered and carefully constructed assault on the senses, and as much about what you can’t see and hear as opposed to what you can. Beyond that, Abyss is simply sublime, and the addition of Russian Circles guitarist Mike Sullivan adds a depth that hadn’t been lacking, but is now impossible to ignore.
This is without a doubt Chelsea Wolfe’s greatest undertaking, and with that comes the greatest reward. It’s essential listening for anyone who enjoys the darker side of music. Now, where did I leave my cape?