Chelsea Wolfe – She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She

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Chelsea Wolfe She Reaches Out review

Chelsea Wolfe‘s last album was, technically speaking, a Converge album. The long-awaited realization of a concept that began with a first-of-its-kind Converge performance at Roadburn in 2016, Bloodmoon: I saw Wolfe and Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky providing melodic balance to a gothic foray into epic sludge metal from the metallic hardcore icons. Yet despite being a featured performer as part of a greater whole, Bloodmoon: I more closely resembled Chelsea Wolfe’s mid-’10s output than much of what she, herself, had released since 2017’s Hiss Spun. She released an all-acoustic album, 2019’s Birth of Violence, made an ill-tempered pandemic noise rock record with drummer Jess Gowrie as Mrs. Piss, and collaborated with Tyler Bates on scoring 2022 horror film X. The impression left by Wolfe’s trail of extracurriculars seems a lot like that of an artist making an attempt to put as much distance between herself and where she’d been.

Her first album in five years, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, gives added weight to that idea through songs of shedding one’s skin and setting ablaze the most self-destructive parts of the self. In a statement she described it as summoning “change, growth, and guidance,” and has elsewhere referred to it as a “rebirth.” though in doing so she hasn’t embraced a brighter tonal palette or a Canva portfolio full of trite aphorisms. In her saga of self-improvement and a newfound sobriety, Chelsea Wolfe has delivered one of the most stunningly dark albums of her career.

It’s a different type of darkness that she channels on She Reaches Out, however. Working with producer Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio) for the first time, Wolfe and her longtime bandmates Ben Chisholm, Jess Gowrie and Bryan Tulao slither away from the doom metal sleaze and menacing darkwave of some of her best-known albums in favor of a sound draped in a cloak of electronics. Its early demos were apparently more rooted in her signature gothic crunch, but the process of fully exploring and fleshing out these songs found them arriving upon gauzier textures and more gracefully eerie arrangements. Outside of the hard-driving “House of Self-Undoing,” She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She feels more spiritually connected to Massive Attack’s Mezzanine than anything in the realm of heavy guitar-based music.

Wolfe constructs a stunningly intense altar of transformation on leadoff track “Whispers in the Echo Chamber,” a baptism in “the blood of who I used to be.” Woozy bass, electronic beats and air-raid sirens build up into a jagged gauntlet of distorted guitars. The mood here is more lushly sinister, less overtly aggressive but without painting over its scars of survival. It’s sometimes curiously seductive, like on the ominous crawl of “Everything Turns Blue,” in which ideas of addiction and sex become intertwined (“To fuck, to feel the same in the end/To hurt, to steal, you were so unreal“); or in the sparser downtempo darkwave of “Tunnel Lights,” which opens with Wolfe singing, “I’m sanctified in my lover’s eyes.” There are moments of subtle terror (“The Liminal”), enchanting sampladelic rhythmic sputter (“Eyes Like Nightshade”), and even something resembling old-school trip-hop on the standout “Salt,” but each stylistic permutation inside the gauntlet seems to bring with it a deeper shade of darkness.

The climactic resolution on She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She arrives in final track “Dusk,” wherein spiraling impulses and self-determination crash up against each other: “One sin leads to another, and I would go through the fire to get to you.” Salvation is only ever implied, but the ellipses are enough to suggest sunlight over the horizon, however harrowing the trek to get here. Then again, Chelsea Wolfe has never been one to shy away from the most portentous shadows, and on She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, she’s sculpted them into extraordinary shapes.

Label: Loma Vista

Year: 2024

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