Chelsea Wolfe has said that there is a brightness in her shadow – a highlight to the looming Gothic image that is typically associated with her music, as seen decked across fashion magazines and iconic photo shoots. Wolfe’s lush yet haunting visual aesthetic is as well received as her music, which ranges from an elegant singer-songwriter folk style layered with harmonies to the heaviest in slow, brooding – sometimes byzantine – industrial, electronic and metal. There is a glow that comes from the darkness when she performs, and seeing her band live is nothing short of incredible, year after year.
Wolfe has brought a variety of lineups through New York to showcase her ever-changing latest material. When she was still promoting her break-out hit album Apokalypsis, the band performed with a vivid stage presence: smoke machines drenched in color casting silhouettes of the band as they bathed the audience in their wall of sound. It was quite impressive.
Immediately following the hype of that album (which features the single “Mer” and the sleeper hit “Pale on Pale”), Wolfe stripped her band down and released a collection of folk songs played on acoustic guitar with minimal backing (Unknown Rooms). Wolfe essentially “pulled a Kid A,” if you will, switching gears with powerfully emotive songs such as the opener “Flatlands,” the resonantly beautiful “Boyfriend” or the intriguing reverb-overloaded piano on “Sunstorm.” The stripped-down band prominently featured the violin in a quiet atmosphere that was graciously soaked up by eager NYC crowds.
Between then and now, Wolfe applied the electronica approach, with multi-instrumentalist Ben Chisholm taking on more of a music production role on the release Pain is Beauty. This album saw the band expand their folk set ever so slightly, with peaks of synth and valleys of guitar. There are a lot of great tracks on that album (“House of Metal” and “Ancestors, The Ancients” come to mind), but the live show felt almost like a transition period blending acoustic material with old school goth synth – the cicada coming out of its shell.
Touring again now in Autumn 2015 (currently in Europe), back with a full-band approach, Wolfe has said that Abyss is the first album for which she has outright considered the live approach while songwriting. The results are evident, as the new material blends soaring, spacious harmonies with a nihilistic amount of turn-the-amps-to-11 Gothic-industrial-loudness. Wolfe’s vocals are as crystal clear as ever, hitting notes that sound nigh inhuman while showcasing her subtly talented guitar playing and the precision excellence of her tight band. Chisholm alone makes no short effort of rocking the hell out on stage, which makes for some entertaining photos, some of which you can check out below from the band’s recent performance on September 9, 2015 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY.