Pain is Beauty, the third album from Chelsea Wolfe is awesome. Whilst I don’t think I can say more than that, I can certainly expand as to why I believe this to be the case.
Earlier on this month I posted about The Waves Have Come and I was expecting the rest of the album to be of similar ilk. How wrong was I??
Opening track Feral Love starts with electronic notes that press in your ears, and the drum beat the follows pierces into your brain. With lyrics such as
your eyes black like an animal
black like an animal
crossing the water
lead them to die
you know you’re in for a dark ride.
We Hit A Wall follows; described by Wolfe as a love song, it is one of the most disturbing and distressing ones I’ve ever heard. As well as this it shows off her skills as a vocalist. Etherial singing on top of percussion that propels that song along at a constant pace. The guitars are spares and very Pornography era The Cure, and are also an earworm of the good kind. The addition of strings adds to the atmosphere – dark, brooding and claustrophobic.
The fourth track on the album is called The Warden, and is mainly electronic based. In fact, the background beats and effects are reminiscent of Kraftwerk. However do not expect any Die Mensch·Maschine imagery here. The eponymous character is a torturer of the worst kind:
the cold and the loud and they won’t let me sleep
i’ve been dragged on the floor and
my blood earns my keep
Coming back to The Waves Have Come stylistically it is a departure from the harsh tonality of the rest of the album. A piano replaces the electronic droning and tones; the singing is longing rather than pained; the melody is conventional; it is beautiful rather than ravaged. It’s the highlight of the album for me. A piece of gorgeous music.
Overall, Pain Is Beauty is a hard listen. It’s industrial, gothic and torturous. But it’s also rewarding, as you can see and hear the talent on view. Neither is it forced. Every word, every utterance and note is meant. It isn’t fake, and you can tell that Wolfe and her backing bunch of musicians believe in what they have made. This alone makes it worthwhile.
Pain Is Beauty by Chelsea Wolfe was released on the 2nd of September on Sargent House