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Chelsea Wolfe | ‘Hiss Spun’

The growling guitar that opens this says one thing: heavy.

This album is going to be heavy.

Much moreso the the excellent ‘Abyss’ – that’s clear immediately.

The next is where that track, ‘Spun’, ends up.

An eyes-rolling, chin thrown back crescendo and release that just knocks you for six. Wow.

Her songs in the past have been great but straight. Development isn’t really an accolade you could afford to her tracks.

This though just screams a newfound compositional confidence. It’s equal parts Melvins – the lumbering main riff – and Billy Corgan, by the time it gets to that wailing, fuzz-saturated guitar and outro speech.


An Aesthete

Chelsea Wolfe is a rare enough quantity these days; a true aesthete pursuing her own musical, thematic and visual styles.

Just look at that cover art. It seems derived form Kate Bush’s ‘Never For Ever’ (though some unkind wags on the net have noted the resemblance to Dougal from The Magic Roundabout).

Makeup, fashion, jewellery – all used to suit her whim.

And she has us bowing with allusions to the extreme metal underground, post Wolves In The Throne Room style.

‘Hiss Spun’ is the apex of all of this so far.


So the album powers on.

For ages I thought ’16 Psyche’ was dull, but in fact its one of the more searing tracks. Built around the simplest of riffs, once again channelling PJ Harvey, its impressive for letting Chelsea into her higher registers.

It’s like Cranes mixed with dark grunge.

One of the most incredible creative moments on this masterwork is the start of ‘Vex’ – where rusty guitars give way to the darkest Trent Rezone / ‘Mechanical Animals’ simple groove.

Her aloof, distanced, erotic, saccharine vocal just makes it all the more intriguing – before the death metal bellows come in.

Who has played the blinder here? Is it Chelsea, her writing partner Ben Chisholm or both? Someone’s been seriously upping their game.

‘Abyss’ was a fantastic album, no doubt: tracks like ‘Iron Moon’ dont come along too often. But as I’ve said before, it’s an album constructed of variations on an amazing theme. Variety isn’t it’s strong suit.

That’s what sets this one apart as leagues better.


The neon keyboard textures of ‘Mechanical Animals’ is referenced again in ‘The Culling’. Its rumbling, dark yet uplifting chorus is superb.

Around the halfway mark, things get a bit quiter; ‘Twin Fawn’ reminds of Mi & L’au’s crystalline innocence, though ‘Offering’ has a bit of Depeche Mode / NIN texture in those glitches and thumps.

The excitement of that first half now a memory, ‘Static Hum’ is a droner, while ‘Two Spirit’ again indulges Troy Van Leeuwen’s unhinged, Corgan-esque guitar bends brilliantly.

Mission Accomplished

Just reading some of her own thoughts on it, I’m struck by one thing she’s said of it:

“I sought out guitar tones that sounded like motorcycle engines, and specifically recorded with Kurt Ballou to capture the deep bass and pounding, energetic drums in the way he does so well.”

One needs say no more: mission completely accomplished.

So yes, at times it can uncharitably seem riddled with no small measure of teenage angst; it owes a vast debt to PJ Harvey; and it’s very half and half as an album.

But the thing is that all of the above are awesome facets.

And it is a self evidently awesome album. Better, indeed, than ‘Abyss’.

4.7 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 02/10/17

  1. I completely disagree.

    In my opinion the only thing that this album has to offer in terms of anything unique or ear grabbing is Chelsea’s voice which for most of it is completely drenched in effects. The last time she did anything for me was her acoustic album.

  2. oh lord, dougal? the magic roundabout? i can’t un-see that! looking forward to this release.

  3. Absolutely love this album, many thanks for the recommendation!

  4. That’s what we’re here for 🙂

  5. Franksidebottom Says:

    I gave this another go. NO, you MUST be trolling with this shit.

  6. Albums amazing, Frank we get it you dont like this type of thing. I dont comment on power metal stuff calling it shite all the time.

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