Ever since first emerging from experimental, neo-folk roots, singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe has amassed a strong and ever-expanding cult following amongst the metal and avant-garde communities, and is increasingly becoming a more household name without trading in on such dynamic qualities nor dark and brooding atmospherics. Previous album Abyss (Sargent House) was a greater departure than much of her catalogue at that point with a much more prominent metallic backbone, invoking the likes of black metal, industrial and noise rock amongst a hotbed of styles. Her latest album Hiss Spun (Sargent House) sees further stylistic changes, yet remains closer to Abyss sonically, sees her further moving away from her folk routes, and offers her heaviest, nauseating and at times visceral effort to date.
Once again showcasing a range of abrasive and juxtaposing styles, Hiss Spun once again offers a wide palette which still manages to flow ever-seamlessly and feel entirely wholesome. The opening brace of ‘Spun’ and ‘16 Psyche’ for example (aside from Wolfe’s vocals) showcase a recognisable doom/stoner thick guitar tone and a slow, powerful pace, while ‘Vex’ offers a more hypnotic approach before noisy, experimental electronic soundscapes come in full effect on the likes of ‘Particle Flux’.
Harsh drone and noise rock elements are present throughout as well which feel like they should be at odds with Wolfe’s (mostly) sumptuous and delicate vocals, but instead meld together to form a captivating and downright discomforting tone. Wolfe’s vocals really show themselves as a tremendous weapon on Hiss Spun as she manages to adapt and match the ever-changing gentle to forceful aspects, culminating with an especially goose-bump inducing performance on closing track ‘Scrape’, hitting high shrieks that are dripping with a sense of desperation and anguish that the album conveys.
Chelsea Wolfe has always been embraced by portions of the metal community that are fascinated by the darkest recesses of the musical world despite not always showing metal-like styles in her music. Choosing the further embrace such influences makes Hiss Spun a genre-melding and straddling body of work that is near impossible to categorise succinctly, but is also her most complete body of work to date, and one that feels like it could be hugely important for both her career and reception, and to the wider musical world.