The world we live in is a dark and scary place, and Chelsea Wolfe has no plans of making it seem any less so. In fact, she wants to do quite the opposite. Wolfe‘s fifth studio album, ‘Hiss Spin’, sees her take on her heaviest, most aggressive album to date.
What could be loosely described as ‘doom metal’, the album carries with it a sludgy, gloomy mood which delivers a melancholy tone of darkness, and is done wonderfully. With down-tempo, dropped guitars, and a doom-ridden feel, the album leaves you feeling as if a chaotic disaster is looming, like an inescapable dread scooping you up and dragging you through a heavy, sluggish nightmare.
One of the best features of ‘Hiss Spin’ is the incorporation of Troy Van Leeuwen from Queens Of The Stone Age. His guitar melodies ooze in and out of the record, carrying with them the signature, recognizable dirty, fuzzy, feedback sound you hear on his band’s earlier work like ‘Lullabies To Paralyze’ and ‘Rated R’. It’s a delightful blend, with Wolfe‘s soft vocals and grungy guitars.
Leeuwen is especially notable on opening track, ‘Spun’, where his talents are put to use to start the record as it means to continue. Easing in with whimpering melodies over heavily distorted guitars, the track’s eerie finale sets the album off, as a build-up of distortion leads to a climax of high angelic vocals searing over some spoken word lyrics by Wolfe.
The dark feeling that ‘Hiss Spin’ carries is relentless, harnessing its uses of diminished chords, contrasting soft, bittersweet vocals over growling, fizzling guitars and crashing cymbals.
Lead single, ’16 Psyche’, is a perfect example of this. Aggressive and gothic, Wolfe‘s echoing vocals sweep through the heavy gained, raw sounding guitars which produce one of the records biggest, weighty sounding choruses.
‘Vex’ sees Isis vocalist Aaron Turner make a guest appearance on the track, and harnesses demonic growls which seep through the mix like dark thoughts in the midst of Wolfe‘s tender, radiant vocals. It’s hauntingly beautiful, and also quite disturbing at the same time.
‘Twin Fawn’ is beautifully melancholy, as Wolfe sings “The twin fawns / The roses / Nothing lives for long”, you really feel the dread that the album leaves you with, that nothing lasts forever. The chorus, out of nowhere, rages through the soft verses, and destroys any idea of this record stopping its chaotic sound as Wolfe roars “You cut me open / You lived inside”.
The vocal performances throughout the album are fantastic, but ‘Two Spirit’ sees Wolfe exercise her vocal range to full capacity. Her breath-like high, falsetto notes fall in and out, like an angel fighting with its voice against the darkness of the buzzy, roaring guitars and heavy bass.
The record has to be up in the top bracket of Wolfe‘s career. It’s brash, it’s bold, it’s beautiful, and the inclusion of Leeuwen adds another dimension. ‘Hiss Spun’ perfectly presents a dark, ambiguous and twisted idea of life, which perfectly reflects the nightmarish chaos of the world that we live in.
Written by Dylan Tuck (@dylankightuck)