Kieth Kahn-Harris, author of Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge, once wrote about metal’s aesthetic and the possibility of decoupling this from the music itself:
It refers to something that is defiant, inexhaustible and unashamed. To be metal is to be unafraid to explore darkness and transgression, but to do it in such a way that one retains one’s sense of selfhood. To be metal is to possess a certain ebullient wit and playfulness that those outside metal often mistake for crassness.
This would mean that there are artists able to embody these values without the use of saturated guitar distortion, death growls and blastbeats. And of course, many legendary artists have spoken of being inspired by bands outside the metalsphere (the guys from Celtic Frost have noted bands like Christian Death and Joy Division). This means that metal has strains within it that are shared or that resemble other forms. One artist who certainly shares much of this creative DNA is Chelsea Wolfe.
Chelsea began her career with albums that took folk and gave them a gothic sheen that added a dimension unexplored by many similar singer songwriters. However, it was with her 2013 album, Pain is Beauty that she began to delve deeper into this realm. The following album, 2015’s Abyss was a further exploration of this, especially on songs like “Iron Moon.” Around the same time, she even made a Spotify playlist that displayed some of her influences in the metal world, which included Darkthrone, Ildjarn, Gorgoroth and Bathory.
On September 22, Chelsea will release Hiss Spun. As much as I liked where she was going with Abyss, this new album is more focused. The phrase “everything comes together” may be overused, but is very fitting in this case, as Chelsea’s metal, electronic, folk, shoegaze and death rock influences have joined to form a cohesive sound that lets you know “ah, this is a Chelsea Wolfe album.”
You can read our interview with Chelsea Wolfe in the latest issue of Decibel. Check out “16 Psyche” below, off Hiss Spun.