Sleep is a haunting experience when you think about it. Your physical being has been disengaged, your subsconscious free to roam and wander where it may. It penetrates the deepest reaches of your mind, into areas you cannot access while awake. It conjures nightmares and terrors and produces temporary paralysis and catatonia. Sleep pulls humanity into depths where it is most vulnerable. Drifting within this vulnerability is where California singer/songwriter, Chelsea Wolfe, can be found on her latest album, Abyss.
Wolfe’s fourth LP is a hauntingly beautiful, drone-laden introspection; with each track a brilliantly juxtaposed dream of crashing industrial noise and ethereal vocals. She has described the album as “…meant to have the feeling of when you’re dreaming, and you briefly wake up, but then fall back asleep into the same dream, diving quickly into your own subconscious”
Abyss was constructed in Dallas, Texas under the guidance of producer John Congleton (St. Vincent & Swans) and with the help of multi-instrumentalist/co-writer Ben Chisholm, drummer Dylan Fujioka, guitarist Mike Sullivan (of Russian Circles fame), and violist Ezra Buchla. These collaborative efforts blend masterfully, highlighting elements of atmospheric noise, folk, and experimental metal.
Abyss’s opening track, “Carrion Flowers”, hits with bone-rattling percussion and haunting screams and epitomizes the gloomy bed into which the album ultimately descends. Throughout the other ten tracks on the album, Wolfe toys with the mind, luring listeners into a false calm with her voice then violently shaking them cacophonous instrumental sections. Album standout “After the Fall” is a great example of this; serving as a pivotal midpoint track that highlights the restless purgatory Chelsea Wolfe drags the listener into. Abyss closes on the “The Abyss”, the album’s scariest song and most likely to induce night terrors. It’s an exceptionally stirring track tinged with a menacing, ill-tuned piano and viola.
What makes Abyss so wonderfully gloomy/gloomily wonderful is Chelsea’s mastery of conveying emotional states that our nightmares can conjure. Anxiety, despair, and pining are all laced within the subconscious mind; and Wolfe has brought these feelings to light and made us feel the most vulnerable. That deep emotional affliction that is conveyed in Abyss is what makes the album such an exceptional piece of music. It is not very often an album can make a listener comfortable with susceptibility to their own emotions. Abyss officially arrives August 7th via Sargent House, you can currently stream the album on NPR.