Ἀποκάλυψις


Band: Chelsea Wolfe
Album: Ἀποκάλυψις (Apokalypsis)
Best song: “Moses” is one of the best songs of 2011.
Worst song: “Friedrichshain” is the lowest point on a very strong album.

Genre is a shitty way to describe music, but it’s such an ingrained part of the culture that no one can avoid it. Mastodon isn’t a band, they’re a metal band or a thrash band.

Look, I understand the need to need to catalog things. We can’t individually examine everything in every single way. And, lord knows, if someone tries to recommend something to me and describes it as, like, pop-country, I’m much less likely to enjoy it than if that person says it sounds like Pink Floyd meets Metallica (hello, Mastodon’s Crack the Skye!).

With that said, I didn’t know anything about Chelsea Wolfe before I read the Pitchfork review of Ἀποκάλυψις. In fact, I’d not heard her music at all. But, man, I am glad I did.

Like I said, genre is a funny thing. Wolfe has been called black metal because of the aesthetics  of her performances, her person and her web site. She certainly foments a certain type of goth thing not far from the Norwegians that sprung the black metal movement so long ago.

And that can be misleading. Black metal, in the most traditional sense, isn’t super listenable. Wolfe, however, is the exact opposite. While her music is, indeed, dark and often a little creepy (in the best way), Ἀποκάλυψις is desperate and haunting that echoes bands like Radiohead.

Indeed, “Tracks (Tall Bodies)” is the most Radiohead-y of the albums 10 tracks. The lyrics are sparse and repeated, but romantic and confused. Like the young woman she is, the thumping drums surround her vocals as she intones one of the most romantic lines you’ll hear on a 2011 album: “We could be two straight lines in a crooked world.”

But, it’s pretty simple to say that Wolfe sounds like Radiohead; that band spans a lot of atmospheric genre stuff (again, genre talk always sucks). I described her music on Twitter — and, definitely, artist-to-artist comparison almost always works better — as “Think PJ Harvey meets Darkthrone meets Neurosis.”

Indeed, Wolfe’s voice isn’t wildly similar to Harvey’s, but has a similar passion and intonation. And she doesn’t sound much like Darkthrone, but has a similar aesthetic. The slowdown of Neurosis’ post-metal applies some, but Wolfe’s folkiness washes that away.

Think of a combination of them and you get this “Moses,” the best song on the album. Over a death march beat and a simple guitar line, Wolfe turns in her best vocal performance on the record, as she turns in a prayer for salvation and survival. She asks for him to “help me carry the burden” of existence, a solemnity that echoes throughout the album and, indeed, life. Her desperation comes to a repeated head as she jumps octaves each time she intones his name. It’s haunting and moving, like the best of prayers.

Again, the aesthetic of Ἀποκάλυψις mirrors the goth-iest of goth records, as evidenced by the album’s first video, the sublime “Mer.”:

The song is wonderful, of course, with Wolfe doing an impeccable Tara Jane O’Neil impression, yet not. The reverby guitar is both swirly and smooth.

Also, snakes.

I imagine there are a lot of people reading this with no interest in Chelsea Wolfe. This is a mistake. Her record is the kind of thing Evanescence fans out there should be seeking out. Haunting music doesn’t have to punch you in the face. It can dance around the edges and let you figure it out, as Ἀποκάλυψις does.

Genre be damned.

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One Comment

  1. R.J.
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I can’t put a fine enough point on it: This album is amazing. I really love it.

7 Trackbacks

  • By Fallen | Albums That I Own on October 31, 2011 at 9:40 am

    […] who knows what kind of crazy politics the members of bands I love have? What if Chelsea Wolfe is a birther? What if the dudes in Mastodon think gay people should be shot on sight? What if the […]

  • By Horse Stories | Albums That I Own on November 7, 2011 at 8:37 am

    […] Music like the Dirty Three’s is hard to categorize. At the time of my first exposure to the band, I thought them to be post-rock. Unfortunately, this was my move; all music was post-rock when I was 16. Genre is stupid, of course. […]

  • […] ROSS GIANFORTUNE reviews Apokalypsis, 10/14/11; “Moses is one of the best songs of 2011.” – Read it here… […]

  • By The Grime and the Glow | Albums That I Own on July 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    […] already written about my favorite album of last year (and of the past many years, probably), Chelsea Wolfe’s Ἀποκάλυψις, so it’s time to take a look at her official record, The Grime and the Glow. Wolfe’s […]

  • By Moon Colony Bloodbath | Albums That I Own on October 20, 2012 at 9:07 am

    […] or to explore a theme. The only perfect piece of art is a concept album and it could be argued that my favorite recent album is one, […]

  • […] Unknown Rooms isn’t Ἀποκάλυψις. That doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful and a beautiful, expansive listen. This […]

  • By Red | Albums That I Own on July 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    […] Luisa (and in an effort to learn more Italian), I got into Carmen Consoli last year. Upon hearing Ἀποκάλυψις, I fell deeply in love with Wolfe’s music and listen to her more than anyone now. I listen to […]

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