Pain Is Beauty
Reviewed by Michael Lohr
Chelsea Wolfe has been making a name for herself these last few years as a raven feathers-clad chanteuse of scrumptiously, stark soundscapes. She is a musical cross-pollination of Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey and Nick Drake with just a touch of Marilyn Manson. There’s something haunting about her songs, about her voice. Her music is dark, ambient folk rock music that is like an austere thorn to the heart of mediocrity.
She is an uncompromising artist, a dedicated follower of free will. Renowned for performing cover songs of far-afield artists such as Norwegian Black Metal bands Burzum and Gorgoroth, or hip hop legend Notorious B.I.G. and taking on seemingly offbeat projects as being an opening act for Drone Metal band Sunn O))) or Japanese avant-garde troupe, Boris. She even co-wrote the soundtrack to New York painter Richard Phillips 2011 art film with former adult actress turned innovative musician, Sasha Grey.
Pain Is Beauty is a gratifying amalgam of her 2012 acoustic release Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs and the electrified doom of 2011’s Apokolypsis. Surprisingly, the addition of synths and sequenced beats enriches this album’s appeal and further expands Wolfe’s sound. The album’s opener, “Feral Love” is a Baroness meets Black Sabbath doomfest that was used in a season four Game Of Thrones trailer. “Lone” and “Reins” are expansive, ambient tracks that are reminiscent of a movie score. While tunes “They’ll Clap When You’re Gone” and “Ancestors, the Ancients” are more, if-you-will, “traditional” black-clad Wolfe songs. One of the surprise tracks on Pain Is Beauty is “House of Metal,” a Santigold meets Haim R&B rave-up strained through the darkened lenses of Ghost B.C.
Pain Is Beauty is the best album of Chelsea Wolfe’s career thus far. It is a left-of-field musical adventure that I highly recommend.