Chelsea Wolfe - Pain Is Beauty

Wolfe is scarily assured.

Label: Sargent House

Rating: 7

The artwork for ‘Pain Is Beauty’ is baffling. Wolfe seems to shiver, gazing out to the left, standing brilliant in a bright red dress. The font is garish. Paradoxically named, what’s contained within makes up, in her words, a eulogy to the strangeness of nature, all about how ancestry and mythology affect our present-day condition and personality. So far, so very interesting.

The North Californian singer has made a big deal of her unique drone-metal-art-folk in the past . Unpigeonholeable, for sure. And this time around, she’s made it chillingly indistinct, at points nihilist. Heavier and more electronic than last year’s folk-oriented ‘Unknown Rooms’, there’s heaps more gloom on show. There isn’t much cohesion, but more an assemblage of darkened thoughts unclear to the listener. Wolfe is scarily assured.

This record could well have been made 20 years ago, such is its timeless quality. Take ‘Feral Love’, the self-explanatory opener, welcoming skittering industrial beats, whispered brooding and stark electronics. Dissonant, clattering guitars later join the party, offering a claustrophobic introduction to what could, for all we know, turn out to be a 90s noise-rock album. But tenebrous torment ‘We Hit A Wall’ adds a string section and shatters the misconception, before the smooth ‘The Warden’ sucks on synth-pop à la Seventh Tree-era Goldfrapp.

Obliterating lo-fi and a thudding drums come full-swing on ‘Destruction Makes The World Burn Brighter’, whose chorus, ‘who’s that girl / use that gun’, rattles the bones. But she saves the best ‘til last with penultimate track ‘The Waves Have Come’, an eight-minute tale of love lost and destroyed by a natural disaster. This heartbreak is brought to life by rippling recording and poignant harmonising.