CHELSEA WOLFE — Hiss Spun (review)

CHELSEA WOLFE — Hiss Spun album cover Album · 2017 · Doom Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
US musician Chelsea Wolfe has been releasing music for several years now and has proven herself the kind of artist who refuses to be constrained by concepts of genre or what people think she should play. Pop, dark folk, darkwave, ethereal wave, gothic rock; she's played it all with many other influences in-between. With her last album Abyss (2015) Wolfe also started incorporating aspects of metal into her music. It's this sound that she has near fully embraced for Hiss Spun (2017), her fifth main studio album. Recording with mainly her usual collaborators, the album also includes several guitar contributions from Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age fame, along with a guest vocal from Aaron Turner, of the now defunct post-metal band Isis.

Hiss Spun isn't an easy album to describe in words. That's simply because there is a lot of different styles going into this record. In terms of metal alone we're talking a mix of doom and sludge most of all, and even the odd part that hints at a blackgaze influence. But there's so much being applied to it from outside the entire metal spectrum that it ultimately comes across as something that can only be described as experimental and atypical. Ethereal wave, gothic rock, noise rock, ambient, drone, industrial; all are things you can catch during the course of Hiss Spun's twelve tracks. The album is obviously a metal based record first and foremost, but don't expect it to sound like anything else you've ever heard. This music owes a lot to all kinds of genres.

Combing so many different sounds makes the album a difficult one to come to grips with. Some songs such as the heavy singles 16 Psych and Vex, the latter being the one where Aaron Turner delivers some growling vocals, are among the most instantly appealing ones that stand out as highlights, while others work much better in the context of the album as whole, such as opener Spun, which serves up a noise rock influenced fuzzy and menacing doom vibe. Never mind that Wolfe's own vocal style is rather ethereal and gentle, if anything that only makes the music sound darker than ever. And this one really feels like it's all about building the mood up to those aforementioned singles, which are much more direct. Some songs like Offering do dial back the heavy elements, but that sacrifices little of the record's atmosphere. Some parts such as during Twin Fawn amplify the heaviness even more though. Hiss Spun is very far from a monotone release.

With an artist like Chelsea Wolfe it's impossible to know where she'll take her music next, or if it will have anything to do with metal, but she's certainly made her mark on the genre with Hiss Spun. It's taken me quite a few complete listens before I've felt that I'm ready to write about the album in light of how many different elements can be found in it. I listen to a lot of metal releases each year but it's rare that one comes across as fresh as Hiss Spun does. I can't promise it will be an instant love affair kind of release, but it's certainly one worth checking out, especially if you're a seeker of the unusual and the challenging.
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666sharon666 wrote:
1 year ago
I've played this several times now but it's capped out at four stars for me. I enjoy it but it's not going to become an album I'll listen to regularly any time soon. Glad to have bought it because it's definitely something a bit different for the collection though.
Nightfly wrote:
1 year ago
I'm going to persevere with this one as I feel it has a lot to offer but I'm not getting it yet.

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