Chelsea Wolfe ‘Hiss Spun’ Review: singer continues to perfect her fusion of goth and doom metal.
Chelsea Wolfe’s sound has evolved in surprising and satisfying ways throughout her career, but perhaps the biggest quantum leap was from 2013’s Pain is Beauty’s stark and delicate arrangements to 2015’s Abyss, which incorporated elements of industrial and doom metal.
And on her latest, Hiss Spun (produced by Kurt Ballou, due Sept 22 via Sargent House), the singer splits the difference, offering a mix of sinewy riffs and spectral post-punk textures resulting in her most varied album to date.
Spun kicks things off in seismic fashion, a churning beast of a track that blends shoegaze and sludge metal to disorienting effect, perfectly mirroring her lyrics of self-doubt and torment: You leave me reckless, you leave me sick / I destroy myself and then I want it again.
Spun is part of an opening triptych of songs featuring Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, who conjures syrupy, spiderweb riffage on the 90’s alt-flavored 16 Psyche and the punishing black metal flavored Vex.
The latter track is Wolfe’s most aggressive to date, with skittering electronic drums and an eerie interlude featuring croaked vocals from Isis’s Aaron Turner.
Wolfe’s pipes are in top form throughout, but shine most during tracks with shifting dynamics, including the wintry Twin Fawn and Culling, which begins with tender crooning before exploding into full-blown banshee wail during the roaring chorus. The song ends with Wolfe reciting a mantra of pain and renewal: Flux, Hiss, Welt, Groan.
Particle Flux is another stunner, a widescreen Goth ballad that seems tailor-made for inclusion on a soundtrack–its hypnotic and chill-inducing, keeping you in its spectral spell until the final note.
The latter half of Hiss Spun continues this theme, relying less on aggressive guitars and more on narcotic soundscapes that heighten the album’s claustrophobic atmosphere, from the chilling Static Hum to Welt, which transmogrifies from noise rock to stark piano.
Wolfe explained the creative process behind Hiss Spun in a press release noting that You’re just bombarded with constant bad news…It’s overwhelming and I have to write about it, while also stating: I wanted to write some sort of escapist music; songs that were just about being in your body, and getting free.
It’s seemingly contradictory to funnel dark current events and escapism into one mix, but mission accomplished: Hiss Spun is both harrowing and healing–daunting and thrilling, timeless yet timely. That sums up 2017 pretty accurately, methinks.