Music Reviews
Ἀποκάλυψις (Apokalypsis)

Chelsea Wolfe Ἀποκάλυψις (Apokalypsis)

(Pendu Sound Recordings) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Seemingly spurred, Chelsea Wolfe sounds subjected by a fiendish force. An artist whose gaunt facial structure and thin, black hair provokes a mysterious aura, my imagination draws an image of a maiden who is forever tied to the shackles of submission, serving as a lounge singer in the Grim Reaper’s Ball. Carrying a delicate voice that crackles at its edges, she pours her heart out over a drab sound that paints a sinister portrait of a dark romantic novel.

With an evenly proportioned sensibility between macabre and light-hearted, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter now resides in a dark, smoky place that’s far more looming than the desolate landscapes explored in her debut release, The Grime and The Glow.  Having vaguely explored folk undertones with a cold demeanor, Apokalypsis completely scraps her original plot to further enhance the paranoid darkness of doom metal. Whereas those earlier songs brought to mind a stream of sunlight trying to break through a grayed sky, now there’s a battering of haphazard lightning striking against a furious ocean.

If there were any doubt, the opening to Apokalypsis wants to institute its largely menacing ambience with the most obvious of implications. In the first thirty seconds, Primal/Carnal exposes its sharp fangs with what sounds like a flesh eating beast attacking its prey. This notion that a literal depiction of violence will instigate fear to its listeners isn’t anything less than contrived and, frankly, slightly embarrassing. At least Wolfe does follow it with a dazzle – Mer’s atonal riffage adequately goes in accord with an irregular percussion, arousing a stark, nihilistic mood that’s strangely inviting.  Even as Demons hits early on with a slab of off-kilter guitars, rising howls, and tom tom slamming exuberance, Wolfe’s stimulating direction quickly dissipates into a plodding, reverb-drenched slog.

Apokalypsis’ second half showcases Wolfe’s fondness to conjure esoteric tonality with vast gothic soundscapes. The knob-twiddling distortions and looped falsettos in Movie Screen make for an absorbing slowburner, while the thick, sparse guitars in the aptly named The Wasteland takes one on abject, somnambulant trip down misery lane. And while Friedrichshain tries to increase in peak tension with a bluesy, To Bring You My Love summoning madcap stomp, it’s mostly a taunt after imprisoning us in a subterranean catacomb with a recurring dissonant chord for torturing purposes.

The tenebrous instrumental closer, To The Forest, Towards the Sea, bookends Apokalypsis with Wolfe susurrating, what’s happening to me? Whether or not it’s meant to imply a transformative period in her career, she’s certainly circumventing the idea of becoming the next goth starlet; if anything, she’s evidently more interested in jamming with Khanate instead of posing as Siouxsee for a revisionist magazine cover. Although she’s an all-rounder when it comes to droning a low pitch tempo, Wolfe’s anguished mood is mostly a concrete interpretation instead of a thoroughly emotive one, mainly due to how any lyrical connotation is swathed in warped cavernous chords. That aside, Wolfe’s throbbing compositions are a revelation; as she uncovers her true self, she almost convinces the rest of us that any deeper meaning is superfluous.