Chelsea Wolfe hits a new reverb high on Hiss Spun

Hiss SpunReverb. Lots of it.

To an extent, you know what you're going to get with a Chelsea Wolfe record. Or you will do by now if you've ever listened to her work before. Her 6th studio full-length Hiss Spun explores a treacle-thick world that's only ever punctuated by a spiraling tempo and Chelsea's signature, haunting vocal. Like the rest of the album and many tracks before it, opener "Spun" is a homage to the heavier end of the musical spectrum. So what's new?

Unlike its predecessors, Hiss Spun is an album comprised entirely of weighty, succulent songs. The ghostly atmosphere of breakthrough album Apokalypsis has only been marginally present since 2013's Pain is Beauty, so this doesn't come as a complete surprise. Flinging the doors open to goth rock and metal, Hiss Spun is the ultimate reprieve of her folk beginnings.

An example of this vociferous embrace can be found in "Vex". Featuring Aaron Turner of Old Man Gloom and SUMAC on backing vocals, he contributes the guttural screaming that's usually reserved for all-male bands with lanky long hair and a penchant for throwing up on one another. This isn't a style that appeals to this reviewer, and we're pretty glad when Chelsea draws a line under the experiment to return to her usual flailing self on "Strain" (which sounds a bit like a drawn-out version of the American Horror Story soundtrack).

Elsewhere, Trou Van Leeuwen of Queens Of The Stone Age and Failure adds to the orchestrated din with heavy guitar that's barely recognisable from Chelsea's longtime collaborator Ben Chisholm's synth. It all coils and rolls together to plunge into the darkest depths of the studio.

While the sound of Hiss Spun is derived from a long sonic journey for Chelsea, themes are predominantly similar, too. The album was tellingly recorded in Salem, something you can imagine the artist has coveted as a goal for years, and song topics include gazing into a lover's dead eyes and human sacrifice. There's a difference here though: Wolfe has found a new strength and although she continues to contemplate her own anxieties and mental health, her vocals are strong and empowering.

It seems as though Chelsea Wolfe is quite happy to square up to her reputation as a flaming, flailing devotee of noise. Hiss Spun doesn't break any rules for Wolfe and it doesn't break new ground, but conversely, it may reach out to a new audience for the Californian musician. An essential purchase? No, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Release: 29th September 2017, Sargent House
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