As far as I was concerned, Chelsea Wolfe came out of nowhere with Pain Is Beauty, and immediately she had a hardcore fan. So when Abyss was first brought to my attention, I made my purchase within 30 seconds.
My two big things on this blog are, obviously, metal, and also dark Americana. I occasionally cover some gothic, folk, shoegaze, or dark electronic stuff. Wolfe inhabits a space that draws on all three of those things, in a manner that’s as unique and compelling as Wovenhand’s take on post-punk/post-rock/shoegaze/country/folk. Another connection between Wolfe and Wovenhand? Against all probability, she followed up a brilliant, career-defining album with an even better album.
Opener “Carrion Flowers” should be enough proof. A heavy, electronic bass part underlies a track with a vibe that’s drawn from the eerie, female-vocal parts of Triptykon albums. The other album highlight, “After the Fall,” starts with creepy ambient stuff before it gets heavy. It reminds me of the best stuff from the most recent Sigur Rós. Elsewhere, it’s just a few degrees separated from Witch Mountain or SubRosa (“Iron Moon” and the beginning of “Color of Blood,” respectively). “Crazy Love” is dark Americana. “Grey Days” pits violin over a dark electronica-inspired beat (but with clearly organic drums). And there’s more—“Maw” reminds me of what little I know of the Pixies, and there are sure to be other influences I failed to pick up on.
Abyss is a nearly hour-long album that fully holds your attention through dynamism, a perfect balance of familiarity and strangeness, and honest, heart-breaking emotion in the voice of the enigmatic Wolfe.
We’ve come near to early autumn, when the majority of the best albums are released. And this is a strong album-of-the-year contender.
The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars