CHELSEA WOLFE Hiss Spun gets 8/10

Chelsea Wolfe
Hiss Spun
Sargent House/Red Eye


Preferring echoing low end riffs over lush, sharp electronics, Hiss Spun is an intricate and complex arrangement of songs that are harrowing and intriguing. At times the album is formidable and menacing, as the sounds continue to expand more and more and build in intensity, it can feel like the album is caving in around you, as though it is it about to engulf you.

Chelsea Wolfe is queen of the underground and new album Hiss Spun is another dark and exploratory accoldae  for the hard working creative. It’s a strange kind of beauty when folk is combined with metal, industrial and gothic rock, but that is the exact kind of unconventional splendour we are dealing with with Hiss Spun.

In Hiss Spun, Wolfe transforms through different genres and different versions of herself with emotional and musical forthrightness, from confessional and exposing tracks like Two Spirits, Static Hum and Offering to doom industrial rock anthems Spun, Vex and Scrape that slightly quench Wolfe’s voice with a whaling haze of guitar. Wolfe’s vocal work on Hiss Spun is as crystalline as ever and nicely contrasted by the never-ending swell of doom and rumbling drumming.

The album could almost be divided into two parts, with the beginning and the end of the album being bold and damning with resounding riff upon riff, and where Wolfe’s ethereal voice only occasionally pierces through the aural fuzz. The other part, around the midsection of the album, is more fragile and delicate, featuring rooms of silence, some acoustic guitar, melodies, harmonies, and stripped back vocal stylings. Perhaps these opposing parts are indicative of Wolfe’s personal discoveries and the self-auditing nature of the album. The midsection is possibly the most provoking section, with superb track Twin Fawn feeling like a trip through occult woodlands with Wolfe’s multi-layered vocals through the chorus like an unnerving supernatural spirit that calls it home.

16 Psyche is one of the stand-out songs, it is the arguably the most complex, but the cinematics are more understated and this adds a lovely soft texture and dimension to what is a heavy anthemic rock song. Opening track Spun is a slow-burn, with a mesmerising swirl of distorted guitar and feedback and steady metal drumming holding it all together. Wolfe’s vocals hit fever pitch half way through Spun, as layered harmonies carefully gravitate towards the top, creating one of the more melodious moments on the album.

Other particularly poignant points on Hiss Spun are songs Static Hum and Two Spirit, in which Wolfe’s usually slightly submerged voice and emotions are truly let loose. In these songs, she pays homage to her folk roots with both songs conjuring up some ominous storytelling and insights into Wolfe.  In Static Hum Wolfe tells “she wears her horrors like a welt.  Glitch of a woman self-destruction” and pleads “love me when I fall apart”.  In Two Spirit Wolfe seems to take aim at death, loss and innocence; “time sped up and slowed down without regard for anyone. I’ll be screaming from the afterlife. I’ll be hunting for you, buried under flowers. I want it back, what was taken from me, I want it back”. They are two of the most vulnerable tracks, allowing us unforeseen insight into the lady behind the music, and in turn this makes them the most effecting tracks on the album as well as proving her versatility as an artist.

The directional and intricate approach by Wolfe and long-time Collaborator Ben Chisolm, producer Kurt Ballou, as well as Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age), sees them searching for (and finding) more and more operatic and booming sounds. They have created an album that is a sprawling and vast universe of noise, with layer upon layer of guitar and vocal feedback, dissonant drumming and everything in between, including; crackles, crunches, squeals, buzzes, snaps, scrapes and sizzles. The album takes you on a hazy journey into an unknown world that has been carefully designed by its creators and continuous to reveal itself to the listener the more they listen.

This prudently thought out wave of sound that changes constantly in depth, breadth, solidity and force, does  mean that nothing is ever quite able to pierce through it and strike you in the heart.  It’s a small critique, but ultimately rather costly – perhaps a less perfected and refined approach now and again, might have given the album the idiosyncrasies and rawness that make something so human and relatable. The vast sonic complexities of the album could also render it a little too self-indulgent for some listeners.

Hiss Spun definitely achieves what it sets out to do, from the very first track you feel like you are stepping into another realm, one covered in blankets of darkness which has a cathartic effect on the listener.  Wolfe uncovers both her fragility and fierceness with candour in Hiss Spun and it’s this frankness, probing nature and openness that makes the album such a success.