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Chelsea Wolfe re-embraces abrasiveness on She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She

"She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She"

Release date: 09 February 2024
Chelsea Wolfe She Reaches Out cover
07 February 2024, 08:30 Written by Greg Hyde

Throughout her discography, Chelsea Wolfe has been consistently innovative.

She emerged in 2010 with her debut studio album, The Grime and the Glow, which combined a deeply confessional lyrical style with post-metal and gothic folk musical influences. She then incorporated post-punk elements into the sound of its follow-up, Apokalypsis. Nascent trip-hop influences could be evinced on her third album, Pain Is Beauty.

Wolfe then embraced an altogether darker, moodier, and heavier sound on Abyss and Hiss Spun before releasing Birth of Violence, an album of softly sung neo-folk songs. She has performed as a guest singer on recordings by bands such as Russian Circles and Xiu Xiu, and Converge’s excellent 2021 album, Bloodmoon: I, would have been far poorer without her simultaneously mellifluous and malevolent vocal contributions. Wolfe’s new album, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, addresses the way in which personal growth can be informed by our future, past, and present selves communicating with each other.

Lead single “Whispers in the Echo Chamber” opens the album, with Bryan Tulao’s distorted, abrasive guitars and Jess Gowrie’s piercing drumbeats complementing the soft yet sinister vocals very effectively. Things speed up considerably for “House of Self-Undoing,” a song that addresses Wolfe’s progression into sobriety following “years of numbing out.” She has been cited as characterising the song as an “underworld journey,” and it is interesting and counterintuitive that a song documenting a slow, gradual process such as achieving sobriety after several years of non-sobriety should be so rhythmically fast and immediate.

It should be said at this point that Wolfe does some of her best vocal work on this album, her singing sounding vulnerable, melancholic, and deeply affected by an ongoing healing process on songs such as “Everything Turns Blue” and “Tunnel Lights.” The latter track’s torch song qualities are elevated by Ben Chisholm’s moody, melancholic piano-playing. Trip-hop influences are also clearly discernible in Gowrie’s drumming throughout, and at no point is this more the case than on the mid-tempo “The Liminal.” Indeed, whilst trip-hop and electronic influences have been key aspects of Wolfe’s music for some years now, they possibly achieve their greatest prominence yet on this album in comparison with the rest of her discography. The moody “Eyes Like Nightshade” and “Salt” serve as good examples of this tendency.

Tulao’s guitars feature more prominently on the album’s first side than they do on the second, with Chisholm’s piano and synths dominating the instrumentation on songs such as “Salt,” “Unseen World,” and “Place in the Sun.” The latter is perhaps the album’s weakest song. Whilst Wolfe’s vocals are characteristically good, the piano accompanying them feels a little weightless. However, closing track “Dusk” more than makes up for this, with Tulao’s roaring guitars making a welcome return and Wolfe singing the song’s lyrics in a defiant manner that very effectively conveys a feeling of the personal progress and movement following a protracted period of soul-searching that lies at the album’s thematic heart having finally been accomplished.

She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She is Wolfe’s best album for some time. The album’s music and vocals reflect its underlying theme well. It is clear when listening to the album after learning of Wolfe’s intended vision for it that she has executed it greatly. Her vocals combine well with the musicianship provided by Tulao, Chisholm, and Gowrie on songs that effectively reflect the difficulties she has faced in progressing onwards from toxic personal situations she has experienced. The album is considerably louder and more guitar-driven than Birth of Violence, and the trip-hop and electronic aspects to Gowrie’s drum work are surprisingly enjoyable. Fans of artists as disparate as Converge and Tricky should love it.

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