Chelsea Wolfe doesn’t play metal, but she’s always seemed comfortable crossing over into the world of heavy music. She’s performed shows with Boris and Deafheaven — as well as Swans, another non-metal band with a sound that more or less defines “heavy.” And one of the earliest moments of her career to capture the attention of the indie music press was her cover of “Black Spell of Destruction,” by black metal misanthrope Burzum. Yet while she’s had her moments of playing loud, abrasive and intense music, like on 2011’s Apokalypsis, her 2013 album Pain Is Beauty translated the overwhelmingly emotional quality of her music into something more ethereal and conventionally pretty.
So let me be the first to say just how satisfying it is to hear Wolfe release a track like “Iron Moon,” which is, in essence, a doom metal song. And it’s a phenomenal doom metal song at that. The guitar tone that breaks through the half-second of silence at the beginning of this crushing, six-minute dirge is so massive and loud, it comes across a little jarring at first, as if somehow one of the highlights from Pallbearer’s Foundations of Burden somehow got mixed into Wolfe’s new album Abyss by mistake. At 30 seconds in, Wolfe puts those doubts to rest — the distortion fades to a gentle lullaby, the drums go from pounding to a slight rumble, and Wolfe’s gorgeously serene voice takes over. But this sense of calm is fleeting; before long, the storm of distortion kicks up again, and Wolfe delivers an equally heroic vocal to match the crushing, and simply fucking loud explosions of guitar. And that’s when “Iron Moon” really begins to make sense, stitching together Wolfe’s melodic sensibility with a newfound taste for the gnarly. This may sound a lot like her first official metal song, but it doubles nicely as her best rock song.[from Abyss, out Aug. 7; Sargent House]
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.