The sea change in heavy music’s underground has led to a widespread acceptance of sounds that wouldn’t traditionally be considered “heavy”. Just look at the success of Myrkur and numerous other folk- and power-metal bands. Few have been as prominent, however, as Chelsea Wolfe, who has created a niche all to herself with a fusion of thunderous, industrial tones with hints of gothic and atmospheric rock for an unsettling but enrapturing concoction.
And ‘Hiss Spun’ is no different, ramping up the abrasive darkness that’s made even more unnerving by Wolfe’s frail purrs. It’s a potent mix; opening duo ‘Spun’ and ’16 Psyche’ crush and caress in equal measure, and ‘The Culling’ and ‘Twin Fawn’ sound utterly apocalyptic in their transitions from ghostly whispers to cavernous, metallic darkness.
Of course, Wolfe herself remains the centrepiece that ties it all together, the haunted whisper that isn’t a million miles away from an artist like Bjork, but with an intrinsic darkness that gives its canvas so much power. Just look at ‘Static Hum’, with the hypnotic vocal line coated in reverb, but makes its black metal backing all the heavier and more immersive. It’s certainly a difficult listen and one that requires a great deal of work, but even on the most superficial level, the combination of sounds here is an utterly enthralling one.
That’s perhaps ‘Hiss Spun’’s greatest strength, the fact that it can carve out such a cinematic atmosphere out of this brand of frosty, blackened noise to such great effect. That this won’t be for everyone goes without saying, but the fact that Wolfe has become such a critical darling in the underground speaks volumes, and ‘Hiss Spun’ is unlikely to change that one bit.
‘Hiss Spun’ by Chelsea Wolfe is out now on Sargent House.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)