Doom metal/gothic/folk/industrial musician Chelsea Wolfe recently unleashed her new studio album, Hiss Spun, which naturally has gotten a lot of praise. She is currently touring the album across the U.S. with electronic/industrial duo Youth Code. I’ve seen Chelsea’s name pop up countless times in doom metal circles, so I knew I had to see what she’s all about. And damn I’ve been missing out! While listening to her stuff as I was walking toward the venue, I felt like I was in some dramatic music video. Powerful stuff.
Her Philadelphia stop was at the Theatre of the Living Arts (TLA), which is sizeable, but not huge. It has quite a wide stage however. The crowd was an interesting mix: metalheads, some EDM folks, a few goths, and people who might not be part of any “scene” in particular. I love it when different people can come together for the same artist.
First up was Youth Code, who I did not know at all going into this. They were basically a hard electronic act with harsh, “core”-type vocals. It’s wasn’t my type of music, but I dug it. It was something different for sure, which is highly valuable in this age. Visceral, energetic, and colorful, the duo played an enjoyable set. There was an interesting kinship they shared with Chelsea Wolfe: blending different elements from electronic music and extreme forms of rock music.
After setting up a huge dark ominous circle above the stage, Chelsea Wolfe came on with her backing band, starting with material from Hiss Spun. I really love her angelic voice overlaying the dark and gloomy atmosphere the instruments create. Her soundscape is equal parts sad and beautiful. The marriage between the doom metal and industrial elements is undeniably captivating and cohesive. There’s a sophisticated rawness to her music, like a well-trained tiger. I love the dystopian sci-fi and post-apocalyptic visuals that are conjured in my mind with her music. There were some theatrics in her set, but the focus was on the music where it should be. There was a long row of light reflectors on stage that created some interesting and unique patterns, even blinding at times.
Highlights include “Particle Flux” has an unrelenting build up that I dig. It’s like a person constantly running from something, whether it be their past or some kind of force. That one is probably my favorite of her new tracks. Though “Carrion Flowers” is definitely her best track, with gritty and dirty industrial pounds dominating the track. It’s a unique type of darkness. Chelsea’s high pitched wails at the end of “Scrape” gave me chills. It closes her new album fittingly and closed the show on a high (pitched) note!
No matter what genre she plays or people put her into, there’s a through-line, a continuity of gloom that persists. She’s the high priestess of the melancholy. The sound is as heavy as a ton of lead, but it’s oddly accessible due to certain elements. If she’s the future of the doom metal genre, I have no problem with that. I hope she continues to do her own thing and draw even bigger crowds. I can only see her getting more popular.