Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Album Review: Chelsea Wolfe's Unknown Rooms

We all have those albums that completely fly under our radars. Last year, that was Chelsea Wolfe's Ἀποκάλυψις (pronounced Apokalypsis). I don't at all remember how I came about finding her, but I do remember the chilling sense I got from listening to the single "Mer"; dark but ultimately beautiful in every way. Released under Sargent House -- home to bands like Russian Circles and Daughters -- I had no clue what I was in for. I tagged her as some singer/songwriter that somehow must have snuck her way onto a metal label. But I was blown away with what I got. That amazement continued when I actually saw her open for Russian Circles at the Middle East in Boston this past summer. I was floored. To this day, I still consider her one of the top 5 acts I have ever seen live.
Now, as 2012 comes to an end, Chelsea Wolfe has released Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, a record that has been on my must listen list for months since its announcement. One thing that makes Chelsea so appealing is her pairing of vocal style with her unique style of music: some have called it "acoustic doom metal," which i think is very funny every time I see it. For me, Chelsea Wolfe is a blend of drone-metal and folk. In other words, think of Sunn o))) but with an actual melody, an acoustic guitar, and a pretty girl singing. None of this sounds bad, right?

Unknown Rooms is an excellent album, one that lived up to my expectations. The main reason being her ability to transition her plugged-in performance to a stripped-down acoustic guitar and strings arrangement. With Apokalypsis, many of her songs are lined with reverb and vocal effects that actually work in her favor (unlike some singers *COUGH* BEACH HOUSE *COUGH*). Instead of flattened vocals, Chelsea Wolfe treats her listener to something that has depth. It's haunting and dark, but again, one of the most beautiful female voices I've ever heard. This is what I believe sailors heard before crashing into a mess of rocks, leading to their ultimate death.

The album opens with "Flat Lands", the first single off the LP. It's simple, yet very effective, starting with just an acoustic guitar, then slowly building to more strings. You're soon treated to "Appalachia", a song closely resembling something you could hear on a Damien Rice release. Overall though, this release feels a bit short, running less than twenty-five minutes. One other thing that bothered me was Wolfe's choice to leave two extra tracks off, and leave them as bonus downloads. Both "Virginia Woolf Underwater" and "Gold" serve as the best tracks on the album, even though they don't really exists unless you buy them from iTunes. If you can, I highly recommend spending the $1.98 on both tracks- totally worth it.

Chelsea Wolfe has been described as gothic, as well as servery melancholy. As depressing as this may seem, from the darkness comes something beautiful; something where the term short but sweet actually exemplifies itself. And as annoying as it is that she left two of the best tracks off the album, the small amount it takes to listen to them is worth the asking price.

Final Grade: A-

For fans of: Sun o))), Russian Circles, Damien Rice -- It's difficult to describe, but hopefully this helps

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