» Blog Archive Review: Chelsea Wolfe Shows Her Demons On Hiss Spun -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

hiss spun I’ve spent a lot of time with Hiss Spun, more than I typically give an album. I’ve expressed my, ahem, appreciation for Chelsea Wolfe’s music, but the one thing I knew I was going to have to do with this album was give it the time it demanded. Whereas her previous release, Abyss, was best described as a tasteful anti-metal release, (Containing and falling upon metal elements but never crossing that threshold) Hiss Spun elects to not continue where Abyss left off, yet keep that same anti-style intact. Instead, Chelsea Wolfe and her band have clawed their way out of the abyss. Metaphorically, the previous record was about finding out what’s at the bottom of a well. With Hiss Spun, Wolfe isn’t hiding the monsters at the bottom anymore.

It was evident that Hiss Spun was going to be a heavy album from the instant Kurt Ballou became attached to the project, and from the feedback-ridden opening moment of “Spun,” it’s so obvious he’s a part of this project. With songwriting that’s dipping further into metal yet taking that step back to explore other influences across it’s 48-minute length, Hiss Spun is incomparable and a unique body of work. With shortcomings being glaring at times, they never offer enough friction to ruin the overall experience.

hiss spun 3The production is going to perhaps be the most divisive aspect of the album, as it differs heavily from that of Chelsea Wolfe’s previous work by bringing out the higher frequencies of her and the band’s sound. This gives it the in-your-face feeling, which is felt heavily on the chorus of “16 Psyche” and, most impressively, on the crescendo of “The Culling,” allowing the songs to drive their emotional nature to their fullest ability. This production style is a stark departure of the subtle, vintage engineering of Abyss or Apocalypsis, yet works effectively once you put on a pair of headphones, turn up the volume, and listen to how densely layered each of the songs are.

While the aggressive nature of the production may throw fans for a loop, the songwriting and overall personal nature of this album are felt throughout. Better yet, Wolfe seems to be revisiting certain aspects of her career ever so briefly, all the while fitting with the aesthetic of Hiss Spun. “Offering” revisits the electronic-driven nature of Pain is Beauty, while the acoustic guitars on “Two Spirits” conjure Wolfe’s roots before spiraling into a siren-like, chaotic post-metal influenced beast of a track. “Static Hum” should greatly appeal to those who enjoyed Abyss, as it takes the aggressive nature of the current album while making it feel like the next step after the previous release. A stepping stone, if you will.

There is, however, bumps in the road during Hiss Spun’s runtime, and ones that Chelsea Wolfe has understandably made. At 12 tracks, two of which are interludes, the album loses track and feels confused around the middle. Namely “Particle Flux” and “Twin Fawn,” the album seems to become lost in its experimentation and disturbs the ongoing flow. While they’re good songs on their own, they are unfortunately the lower-ranking of the tracks on display here.

hiss spun 2Even more complicating is the manner in which the album wraps itself. “Scrape,” the album’s closing track, is perhaps the fastest and heaviest song on the album, and it ultimately bears the weight of making a final impression on the listener that should convince one to experience the entire thing again. It fails to do that, however, and given how layered and structured the rest of the album, the song feels like it needed more time and more to it to build up tension properly for a final send-off. All the right pieces were in place, and while it does its intended purpose to some degree, the potential is still lingering and it hurts knowing that was never met.

Regardless of its faults, however, Hiss Spun will certainly be the accessible art-house album of the year. While I doubt your typical thrasher will enjoy Hiss Spun, the adventurous and experimental metalhead and fan will have so much to admire here, as this is a deep, dark, yet aggressive album that isn’t trying to hide in the shadows. Even with some of the potential never having been met, the overall experience is one that Chelsea Wolfe and her band should be proud of.

Hiss Spun is available everywhere this Friday, September 22nd. You can stream “16 Psyche” below.

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