The Haunt, Brighton, Wed 19th April
Looking back at what I wrote after first seeing Chelsea Wolfe, at the Mutations festival, I find I was much taken by her music. While taking some exception to her Gothy, too-much-mascara look.
Which in retrospect seems too much like reviewing a book by the shade of it's cover. True, I tend to react to the trappings of Goth the way they do to sunlight. The main problem with it is that too often it's just the dressing up, just empty theatrics and painted dark. But then your actual dark is plentiful enough with Wolfe. (Quite literally so. It's one of the most underlit gigs I've been to in recent years.) Enough to convince you she's yer actual creature of the night.
There's a cool quote from her on Wikipedia: “"I do have a hard time sticking to one genre, and honestly I prefer it that way. I'd rather be free to experiment and make the kind of art I want to make than be easy to define." It the goes on to list her influences as “doom metal, drone metal, black metal, gothic rock, folk and dark ambient”.
Bar folk, none of which are sounds which you associate with songwriting, yet she seems continually able to pack them into songs. In fact, by 'folk' I suspect people mean that packing - the means by which she binds those sounds together - rather than any kind of Sandy Denny vibe. (Though at the same time it can sometimes sound like later, louder Portishead. Wolfe's tremulous voice in particular can channel Beth Gibbons.)
Guitar lines can be distorted to the point where there's really only the distortion. Yet their scrunchy metallic rhythms don't collide with melodies so much as co-exist. Songs don't progress so much as deepen, like storm clouds thickening. And the sound is so expansive it's great to hear in a live setting.
If I say there's something underlyingly adolescent about it all, I mean it in a positive sense. In the sense of feeling that immensities are contained within you, which you're compelled to find a way to release. And in our nostalgist, classic rock magazine era, we probably need to cling on to the sense that it's music about stopping you getting old and accepting.
An old-ish clip but a track from the current album... (And like I say, underlit.)