It’s been almost a decade since the release of Chelsea Wolfe’s debut ‘The Grime and the Glow’, in the 9 years that have followed her sound has grown and evolved alongside her popularity, often lauded as “the PJ Harvey of doom metal”. Trying her hand at just about everything, from experimental lullabies and collaborations with artists from an array of genres to covers of the likes of Burzum and Rudimentary Peni, Chelsea has gradually moved away from the dreamy lo-fi of her first album into entirely different territory. 2017’s ‘Hiss Spun’ saw her release her heaviest album yet, produced by Converge’s Kurt Ballou and featuring vocals from Sumac’s Aaron Turner, it was the first album Wolfe released that could genuinely be considered “metal”.
Fans that had been listening to Chelsea Wolfe since the beginning were divided in opinion over the new direction her sound had begun to take, claiming an overuse of the gain knob on her amp, and that her sound was now too far removed from the originality of what had drawn them to her in the first place. On the flipside of this, ‘Pain Is Beauty’, considered Chelsea’s seminal album, saw her attract legions of new listeners and earned her a place on some of the biggest metal line ups and festivals the scene had to offer. Her sixth and newest release ‘Birth of Violence’ sees the music of Chelsea Wolfe come full circle.
Stripped away of any outside influence or pretence, ‘Birth of Violence’ is Chelsea Wolfe in her purest, undiluted form. All effects previously utilised to convey darkness have been stripped away, allowing the beauty of Chelsea’s voice alongside an ethereal guitar sound to do the talking. It feels like a return to the abstraction of ‘The Grime and The Glow’ but with a richer production quality and all the beauty of acoustic compilation ‘Unknown Rooms’. It is also the strongest vocal performance on any Chelsea Wolfe release to date – for diehard fans who are familiar with 2006’s unreleased ‘Mistake in Parting’, there is a definite likeness in both style and delivery.
It’s difficult to pick just a single standout track on this record, from the gothic Americana of opener ‘The Mother Road’ and Chelsea’s epiphany of “I guess I needed something to break me” (perhaps a nod to the backtrack her music’s direction has taken?), the haunting but seductive tones of ‘Deranged for Rock & Roll’ (the line “drink my dreams and sell my soul” will stick with you long after) to the shimmering softness of ‘Be All Things’, every song feels poignant and is a welcome return to the roots of one of modern music’s most important artists.
(8/10 Angela Davey)