Review: Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun

“I succumb to nothing…”

With the swaggering gait of a lumbering giant, the instrumental aptitude of “Spun” announces and asserts itself with both savagery and aplomb. It’s vocal performance takes a different tack altogether though, graceful and elegant, floating above the din in an almost taunting fashion, tormenting the slinking, tortured yet supremely earworm-y riff at center of the song’s chorus. Though always praised for her folky death rock troubadour bonafides, Chelsea Wolfe’s new LP “Hiss Spun” takes the mild synth elements that gave a crackle of energy to her overall presentation in the past and cranks them up to eleven here, creating a portal back to the gothy, industrial metal of the late 90’s.

It plays like a perfectly scathing yet introspective bridge between golden age Marilyn Manson classics “Antichrist Superstar” and “Mechanical Animals”, yet with of course a less calculating and peacocking and more introverted and genuine iconoclast at the center, and all the better for it. Yet there’s a timelessness to the sonic desolation on “Hiss Spun”, and while it’s more abrasive passages may sound like something you would’ve rocked on a discman from the oversized pocket of your JNCOs, the post-apocalyptic wrath of a track like “16 Psyche” digs in deeper than any intentional nostalgia baiting could ever hope to achieve.


“Vex” asserts itself with a techno thumping funeral procession of haunting, buzzing, moaning guitars, giving way to an operatic cacophony spearheaded by journeyman extreme metal alchemist Aaron Turner. “Twin Fawn” boasts Wolfe’s most commanding vocal, a feedback induced start-stop loop of metallic chaos gives way to a strangely serene and hopeful noise punk outro. Gut wrenching heartache powers “The Culling”, and tightly coiled tension begs for release on “Particle Flux”. “Static Hum” and “Two Spirit” reclaim the pensive, melancholy overall vibe of “Abyss” before “Hiss Spun” reaches its ultimate crescendo with the droning, clockwork outrage of “Scrape”.

Chelsea Wolfe has been compared to everyone from Garbage’s Shirley Manson to Bjork, from Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star to Fiona Apple, and the sort of aching, singer-songwriter honesty cloaked in black clad mystery that earned her those contemporaries is more than on display in “Hiss Spun”, but above (and below, and inside) all else, “Hiss Spun” is a goddamned dyed in the wool fucking doom laden, depth plumbing, death worshipping metal record, and probably the most fearlessly interesting and esoteric one I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with in this so far somewhat anemic 2017.



Kevin Hawkey is the co-founder, head writer and editor of Riot-Nerd. He enjoys Fighting Games, Metal, Marvel, Horror and all the weird shit in between. A lifelong Philadelphian just as comfortable in a circle pit at Underground Arts as he is drooling over the new Hot Toys figures at Brave New Worlds, Kevin’s idiosyncratic sensibility gives this site it’s unique dichotomy between “riot” and “nerd”.
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