Chelsea Wolfe delivers big rock songs on her intense sixth album, Hiss Spun.Sargent House, 2017
8.3 / 10
The timing of Chelsea Wolfe‘s sixth album is quite interesting. Mainly because last month we got a new album from EMA, and also, this month Zola Jesus released a new album. All three of these women make music that is engrossing for its provocative quality. And some listeners may think of them as interchangeable. However, Wolfe’s music often feels like the darkest of the three. For Hiss Spun, Wolfe is giving back with her new album as a response to the world’s turmoil. “I wanted to write some sort of escapist music; songs that were just about being in your body, and getting free,” she said in the album’s press release. Getting free apparently means loud, sprawling rock songs.
And this is clear from the get-go with album opener, “Spun”. It alludes to some inner turmoil brought on by another person or possibly events in the world. However, you may also want to keep a Dictionary handy. It will likely be the only song you’ll ever hear with the following line, “The hyperosmia and the base sense/ The prodrome and the aura.” But you have to listen closely since Wolfe whispers the line under the song’s raging music. Rather than pay attention to the lyrics, you may just lose yourself in the industrial heavy riffs that Chisholm and Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, Failure) provide. The song sounds huge. But then, Wolfe follows it up with an even bigger song “16 Psyche”.
“16 Psyche” embraces sexual intimacy while refusing to settle for one lover. Perhaps, because choosing a lover would mean having to actually love that person. And losing that person from her life would be the greatest pain to endure. The guitars snarl and growl as Wolfe’s vocals soar high above the chaos. Already Hiss Spun sounds like the meatiest album in Wolfe’s career. She’s embracing her dark side more than ever. Don’t believe me. Just listen to how “Vex” goes from goth to Cannibal Corpse in its climax. Scary good.
Although Wolfe describes the album as “escapist music”, there may be times where you want to escape from it. Aside from the album’s heavy rock sound, the lyrical imagery of the songs is often just as impactful. “Scrape” is one instance where Wolfe sings, “You carrier, you repulse me/ Heard the sound of her knees scrape against the street.” An out of body experience for this woman, likely a victim of rape. But also a victim of this awful world. “Static Hum” realizes the tragedy of a family mourning the loss of its child, who left to fight in a war. She sings, “They gave you to war, gave you away/ A garden of stones marks the debt/ She wears her horrors like a welt/ A glitch of a woman self-destructing.”
But even though this album isn’t an easy listen, it bears an honest, unflinching truth on the brutality of the world. One which we just decide to live with rather than change. Wolfe is just painting it with all of the black strokes it deserves.