Singer/songwriter-noir Chelsea Wolfe‘s profile only seems to have grown bigger with time over the years, setting a benchmark without even trying in the process.
Having fully embraced a thick, oppressive sludge metal influence on her last album, ‘Hiss Spun’, her sixth studio album, ‘Birth Of Violence’, is far more stripped-down outing musically, and born out of a period of retreat. It’s a familiar story: an artist taking to a secluded environment to get away from everything, but, with Wolfe at the peak of her powers, this record was always going to speak for itself. If you enjoyed her 2012 acoustic compilation album, ‘Unknown Rooms…’, then this will no doubt peak interest.
The lyrically reflective and honest ‘The Mother Road’ sets the tone for the rest of the album, led by an acoustic guitar; all the dark soundscapes we’ve grown used to are by-and-large stripped away. However, ‘American Darkness’ does makes welcome use of them, which brings it almost to a relaxing terrain, but the melancholic nature comes out as always.
And the album’s strongest moment arrives in the form of the simple but very effective ‘Deranged For Rock & Roll’, led by a driving rhythm, combined with strong folk and country influence, and Wolfe‘s ear for melody shining over everything else.
Songs like ‘Be All Things’ and ‘When Anger Turns To Honey’ are what Wolfe does best, slowly pulling you into her world, with a wave of emotions on display. ‘Little Grave’, led by an almost-whispered vocal, tugs particularly strongly at the heartstrings.
Long-time collaborator Ben Chisolm is also on hand to pepper his touch over the record, albeit more sparingly than before, and the production methods on ‘Erde’ make for a very tense listen.
The emotionally-charged ‘Preface To A Dream Play’ is another reminder that Wolfe‘s music has always had a cinematic edge to it. You can definitely imagine this soundtracking the tense finale of a drama series, and this track brings these qualities to the fore. We’re also reminded of Wolfe‘s impressive vocal range, switching between an almost hollered, desperate vocal delivery to a more hushed vibrato adeptly.
We’ve certainly got a left turn stylistically, but it’s very much Wolfe doing what she does best, and even more so when manifested in a different way from what we’re used to – bleak, seductive, and immersive as ever.
While this may not have the immediate impact of her preceding records, ‘Birth Of Violence’ is virtually faultless and one of the most raw albums to Chelsea Wolfe‘s name, showcasing her mastery at reinvention yet again.