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Chelsea Wolfe Abyss Sargent House

Across the sparse trauma of 2010’s The Grime and The Glow and the raw, sinewy drone-folk of Apokalypsis the following year, Chelsea Wolfe’s bold, gothic expressions sounded utterly otherworldly and unique. Her breakthrough came in 2013: Pain Is Beauty shared the same deathly purview, the same potent melodrama and deeply imbedded morbidity, but while in the past Wolfe herself felt like a shady, unknowable silhouette, a figure had now emerged from behind the shroud.

With momentum on her side, Abyss could be Wolfe’s opportunity to become a most unlikely star; a blackened antihero. The most apparent shift here is in production values: Abyss feels fuller, crisper, far less experimen- tal than previous work, revolving around a more traditional doom/ industrial palette. At points this works in its favour: the soupy bottom-end of Iron Moon would give Sleep or Cult of Luna a run for their money, and, for what it lacks in subtlety, the crashing clarity of Grey Days makes up for in allowing Wolfe’s voice to soar – at its best, her pining tone recalls the ageless, creeping melancholia of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.

But more often the album feels disjointed, unsure of itself, even a little dated. Carrion Flowers, After The Fall and Color Of Blood’s vast synthetic structures rob Wolfe of what makes her so intriguing: her mysterious fragility, her hopeless humanity. As the closing title track descends into a horror of detuned strings, sucking you in, pleading for attention, you’re left with the slightly hollow feeling of an opportunity missed.