Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chelsea Wolfe: Black Metal Lullaby

Atmospheric, haunting, gloomy.  Think Portishead’s Dummy minus the hollow midi tones while still replete with sweeping effects, and fronted by a young and strong PJ Harvey taking over for the ever so fragile Beth Gibbons (though Wolfe’s end phrasing is reminiscent of a less affected Bjork).  In interviews Wolfe has stated that she’s heavily inspired by heavy metal and has recently toured with Liturgy, a New York band categorized as “transcendental black metal” (these guys apparently build their own churches before burning them).  

Some have described her songs as folk-metal—okay.  But unlike the occasional acoustic outliers many heavier acts recorded to get in rotation on MTV circa 1994, nothing about Wolfe’s songs sounds geared toward commercial dividends.  That said, her music, though brushed with a ghostly opacity and often progressing like a leg-shackled dirge, still catches your ear.  It makes you sing the vocal melody but not the words, seeing that by comparison—with all the overdrive and Wolfe’s voice having been lowered into the mire (gambits that make the album perfectly engaging)—Kurt Cobain’s infamously garbled lyrics present themselves with the saliency and articulation put forth by an English barrister.  All of which befits the dour genre, the vocals adding to the album’s lush and otherworldly aesthetic without committing to exacts, the vague suspicion of a ghoul out of frame enchanting and unnerving a spectator’s mind, roiling up her longings and personal turmoil.  After all, the moment you march a specimen, no matter how horridly deformed, before a committee, they've no choice but to acknowledge the subject as real, earthly. Listen

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