Favorite song: Grey Days
Review in 5 words: Darkness has returned. Hail Chelsea.
It has happened. Chelsea Wolfe has done what I thought was impossible. She has brought a doom metal album into a college radio station’s rotation. That’s right, in case you haven’t heard; Abyss by Chelsea Wolfe is secretly a metal album. To be honest, with a name like Abyss we should have seen this coming. The abyss is the most brutal place on the planet.
There has always been a certain type of darkness behind all of Wolfe’s work. Until now, it has primarily hid in minor vocal harmonies and haunting lyrics. But in the new record, Abyss, Wolfe’s the darkness of Wolfe’s writing is front and center, as a booming distorted bass takes on the main melody for tracks like “Dragged Out”.
The delicate singing of Wolfe’s previous work is still present. You still hear her gently whisper ‘Where Are You?’ as she opens up the song “Maw”. However her voice recedes into the background as the distortion from the guitar and bass in the chorus buries it.
This seems to be the songwriting theme for Abyss. The songs juxtapose her gentle echoing voice within the verse with the harshness of a fully distorted guitar of the chorus. This abutment between harsh and soft is clearest in the song “Iron Moon” (seen above) which features nearly inaudible lyrics in the chorus and a gentle croon in the verse. The sound of the guitar on this album is so harsh that you would not expect to hear anything but its grinding whir. And at first you don’t hear the subtleties of Wolfe’s voice over the noise. But if you allow yourself to be enraptured by the darkness of the Abyss, you will hear that her voice does shine through.
Now here is where I go off about the musical implications of this album. But as of writing this, it is too early to say what I want to say. I want to say that accepting Abyss into the world of college radio is a sign of growing acceptance of dark metal-leaning experimentation. But I don’t know that, because I don’t know how it will be received. I would not be surprised if after its released, listeners expecting to be swooned will feel like they can’t deal with the feeling of impending doom that comes with Abyss.
But if you’d like to take the dive, I have a suggestion. Grab some headphones that can handle bass, turn out the lights, lie down, and close your eyes. Embrace the darkness.
By Liam Comer