Chelsea Wolfe: “Hiss Spun” Album Review

Written By: Filip Teovanovic


Originality: (4 / 5)
Vocals/Flow: (4 / 5)
Lyrics: (4 / 5)
Production: (4 / 5)
Average: (4 / 5)

Another day, another review of an artist who sublimes their chaos into art. On her fifth album, Chelsea Wolfe decided to accept both the inner and the outward chaos and transform it through music into something real, palpable and substantial. She managed to tame the chaos. Although always oriented towards obscure expression, on Hiss Spun, Chelsea went one step further in personal and professional sense.

According to Chelsea, this record is an escapism conceptualized as a chaos of the world and inability to control every single aspect of life. The world is in constant flux of accelerated changes that are impossible to hinder or make fixed. The change is attached to escapism because it’s not about running away from life, rather avoiding stillness. Chelsea says that is ok to accept your chaos and I totally agree with her. The name of the album can be interpreted as a circulation of sounds that increase with change such as whistle and grinding. Hiss is the expression of disapproval, while the flux is something that constantly annoy us by disrupting our equanimity. But there is a way to accept the change. Change is inevitable and we might as well find comfort in that.

The album is recorded in Salem, in Kurt Ballou’s studio, which also has its meaning since Chelsea does not hide her feministic attitudes, even though they are not emphasized in her works. Ben Chisholm and Jess Gowrie are her longterm collaborators, and their contribution is omnipresent here as well.

Hiss Spun is musically related to the above mentioned sounds. We might know Chelsea as a vocalist who likes to incorporate twisted tones in her interpretation, but on this record everything is left to the instruments, while her vocal is pure. Instruments create the impression of chaos, disorder and conflict. Frequent use of distortion and film effects of cuts are main facets of Hiss Spun. Chelsea is always somewhere in between nature and artificiality, which is why her style comes out as amalgam of mimesis of nature and production of tech sounds.

Her vocal is torn between calmness and intensity similar to metal artists. This is still a Goth album, although more doom than any of its predecessors. From folk debut to distorted Abyss to Hiss Spun, Chelsea showed us in which direction she wants to go.

“Vex” is such an idiosyncratic number. Aaron Turner is featured on this one and his vocal gave the track a dose of heaviness that Wolfe wanted to accentuate. Alongside claustrophobic and torturous “16 Psyche” that is named after recently discovered asteroid, this is the best moment of the album. “16 Psyche” is particularly intriguing because of the artist’s candor in the lyrics, but also due to beautiful orchestration. “The Culling offers haunted interpretation and dramatic subtext. Strain and Particle Flux reveal the concept of the release, while closing Scrape ends the album in a sudden and sharp cut.

Sensibility of Chelsea Wolfe got its true manifestation on this record and flamed in her songs in the best way possible. It is clear that she is maturing and that the right people are around her. Exciting!