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Review: Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun

With every release it seems that Chelsea Wolfe’s music gets heavier in some way.
Inevitably that would mean that at the moment Hiss Spun is her heaviest album, assuming the trend is one that has no breaks.

The album opens with “Spun”: a slow, grinding and monolithic song that feels quite menacing and doomy. The vocals move through and above the sound, drawing out words as necessary to build on the already well-layered and dense music as the song remains consistent in pace, save for a few well-timed and brief, frantic bursts of speed.

Whilst the music is quite heavy, it doesn’t feel as though it is as blunt and assaulting as heavy music usually can be, instead feeling more as though they are embracing the listener.
Part of that may also be due to the hazy, ambiguous quality of the songs. A lot of what is heard is quite direct, but the way that the songs build and crash combined the way that Chelsea Wolfe uses her voice and the effects applied to her voice giving a feeling of distance make the songs feel as though there’s a bit of detail that’s not quite coming through.

Despite the heaviness of the music, there’s a lot of melody co-opted into most of the songs. It also allows for the brief acoustic moments, as well as the airy “Offering” to sit well with everything else despite how at odds they initially seems with the rest of the album. The melody also works well in how it affects the mood of Hiss Spun in that it balances the heaviness quite well and allows the album at times to feel as though it is soaring.

Chelsea Wolfe’s vocal performance is strong. She knows when to emphasize and pull back as well as how to draw out the most of her lyrics to suit each song as well as how her voice works as a sound and what ot adds and takes from each song. This is good as due to the effects on her voice, her performance becomes more about its sound rather than the lyrics which at times lose a little bit of their clarity. This isn’t a bad thing as it seems as though Chelsea Wolfe desires to be ahead or over the music. She does rise over the songs at times but it’s never in a dominating way. Instead it is always in service of the songs.

Hiss Spun works well as an album. There’s a strong ebb and flow and despite it sounding quite heavy, the songs don’t feel as though they’re abrasive or brutal; nor do they feel as though they are trying to overwhelm the listener. It’s clear that Chelsea Wolfe and her collaborators know how to craft strong songs that aren’t there just for the sake of backing her voice. On the songs are solid performances of strong songs that are worth the time spent hearing.

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