You’d be hard-pressed to find a female singer-songwriter who appeals to metalheads and folkies alike. Chelsea Wolfe’s beautifully somber songs somehow traverse both realms. Her music has been aptly described as “drone-metal-art-folk.” She melds the dark, drones of doom metal with stark piano notes and guitar arpeggios – over which she sings in a haunting tenor trill. Her own compositions aside, she can cover the 1939 folk staple “You Are My Sunshine” alongside Burzum’s 1992 Norwegian black metal dirge “Black Spell Of Destruction” while retaining her signature sound and style.
Chelsea began recording herself in her father’s home studio at age nine. When she began playing live, Chelsea preferred to perform in unorthodox locations like deserted nuclear plants, cathedrals and basements. Her lauded 2010 debut album The Grime and the Glow was recorded on a vintage eight-track. Her sophomore album Apokalypsis was tracked in a proper studio, but for Chelsea’s third full-length, Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, she chose to record deep in the woods of Northern California.
With Chelsea’s fourth album Pain Is Beauty, she innovatively culminates all her influences into a palpably intense listening experience that feels like these songs were recorded in the eye of an apocalyptic storm. Electronic rhythms and unsettling soundscapes set a cinematic tone on the opening “Feral Love.” But centerpiece song “Sick” best showcases her inventive potential to spin analog synthesized chamber pop, string arrangements and doomy drones into a sophisticated, cosmopolitan accessibility that’s already setting trends in modern recorded balladry.