Chelsea Wolfe’s Hiss Spun is a chameleonic rock record that synthesizes sounds as diverse as industrial, doom/sludge/alternative metal, dark folk and a swarm of other abrasive noises in between. In it, Wolfe channels heavy bands like Nine Inch Nails, Neurosis and Isis, but with an ear for melody so strong and a voice so warm and inviting she could be a legitimate metal pop star.
Wolfe has an understanding of dynamics that really sets her records apart. Hiss Spun has moments of plodding industrial tension, like ‘Strain’ or ‘Partical Flux’, but it also has moments of skull-crushing, black hole, wall of amps release, like ‘Static Hum’, ‘The Culling’ or ’16 Psyche’, which is one of my favourite songs of the year. These songs acquire their power by gargoyle-silhouetted contrast against passages of gnawing, atmospheric tension-building and slow dread.
Even within individual songs is a mastery of dynamics. ‘Twin Fawn’ starts out as an ominous dark folk ballad with Wolfe on guitar accompanied by only hand percussion and a gentle drone. But in the chorus it absolutely explodes into a sea of shimmering metal-gaze chords and booming snare hits to wonderful effect.
These talents were evident on Wolfe’s previous record, Abyss, but the difference is that Hiss Spun spreads them out more evenly across its entire length, and creates a more satisfying album arc in the process. Abyss placed all of its heavy songs in the first half, while side two was comprised of ominous, drony folk numbers. But with her latest album, Wolfe has successfully fused these two aspects of her music into a cohesive whole.
In doing so, she put together one of the best metal or rock albums I heard all year. Hiss Spun is wonderfully recorded and produced, genre-fluid, vicious and despondent in equal measure. It totally engulfs in fuzzy Gothic beauty, and absolutely must not be missed.