Chelsea Wolfe: bringing converted churches to gothic life since 2009
If Nick Cave wanted to swap his brooding darkness for something dirtier and more organic, then he might sound like Chelsea Wolfe. But not as good.
That’s because Chelsea Wolfe isn’t an artist you can simply quantify by going for the x+y =z lazy music journalist formula. Which makes writing about her music almost as frustrating as it is wonderful to listen to.
Ever since I first heard Chelsea Wolfe I’ve been borderline desperate to see her live. I was fascinated by how she’d pull of the rich textures of her records live, how her gothic aesthetic transfers onto a stage and just how much of the totally engrossing and deeply sinister atmosphere of her albums comes across when you’re in the same room.
As it turns out, it was pretty different to how I imagined. Everything was a lot more organic and raw than I expected. Though the music isn’t aggressive it is crushingly heavy. Jess Gowrie hit her drum kit with a ferocity I’ve seldom seen and Ben Chislom threw his bass around like he was a cutting edge hardcore band from the early 00s in Bostons.
Not like he was providing the main pulsing texture to a voice as penetrating as it is beautiful as it soars and whispers its way around the beautiful surrounding of Saint Lukes.
I’m certain every show on this tour has been great, but there was something extra special about seeing Chelsea Wolfe in this old church turned venue. It was super goth, which is always a plus for a show like this, but more than that the sheer size of this venue benefitted the music immensely.
When your guitars sound like melancholy avalanches you really want to be playing them in the cavernous surroundings like this. Those riffs and thunderous rhythms totally fill the room, and yet those layers of additional noise and the achingly delicate melodies aren’t lost amongst it all.
It’s fitting that the stage is flanked by two ancient stained glass windows because this music sounds like stained glass shattering in slow motion. What does that even mean? Who knows? But it sounds like a sticker you could put on the front of an album so I’m sticking with it.
Chelsea Wolfe’s music is a collision of disparate influences: folk music and black metal, goth rock and ambient music, noise rock and electronica and despite all that is a totally cohesive triumph. A master class in defining, and exploring your own artistic identity.
This evening was just about throwing yourself headlong into some emotionally raw and overpowering music in a beautiful venue, it was about being reminded real artistic success comes from channelling your influences naturally, not by forcing into the shapes you thinks others are going to expect.