Chelsea Wolfe embodies the crumbling morale of an ill-fated world. On her debut record, Ἀποκάλυψις, the singer-songwriter illustrates a solemn “wasteland” that possesses no hope whatsoever. “It’s a machine we’re up against / devoid of reason, devoid of sense / it’s a system full of regret / we wear it on our shoulders.” This is haunting stuff – a collection of songs that not only exhibits the post-apocalyptic imagery of an annihilated world, but the struggles of preserving religion and love in a hopeless time. Chelsea’s reiteration of gloomy doomy atmospheres, however, can come off as a monotonous.
Earlier into the year, Chelsea Wolfe stated that the “the dark state of the world” influenced her songwriting to a great extent. It shows: Ἀποκάλυψις is the kind of record that underlines erie atmospheres more than anything. There isn’t a single instance where the darkness takes a backseat to Chelsea’s seductive vocals. Instead, she submerges herself into an atmosphere that lacks forgiveness or light. This is evident from the get-go, with the introductory track “Primal/Carnal” blaring a mixture of distorted vocals from Chelsea herself. It’s a startling track that may frighten more than it does intrigue, but it serves as a perfect introduction to the album’s tormented narrator.
The best thing that can be said about Ἀποκάλυψις is its raw, organic sound. Rather than depending on the intricate studio-techniques of modern technology to create a polished product, Chelsea relies on the rawness of the instruments themselves to create something alive. From a production standpoint, the album isn’t too experimental – what you’re hearing are the live sounds coming out of the band’s equipment (instruments, guitar-pedals, amps, etc.). And her bare-bones approach furthermore compliments the grittiness of her lyrics, illustrating a place that feels very dark, foreboding, and, above all, real .
Its a shame, then, that the album’s second half lacks the coherent nature of the first. While Chelsea’s vocals remain admirable all the way through, the music feels less inspired in certain spots. “Pale on Pale” never quite lifts off like it should; “The Wasteland” suffers from an overbearing amount of reverb and echo during its climax; “Moses,” while a good track, consists of a guitar melody that sounds similar to “Pale on Pale”’s. “Friedrichshain,” on the other hand, is an excellent track that succeeds on its simplicity. “Movie Screen” is also an exception – an intricately layered song with vocals and guitar melodies looping in an uncoordinated yet impressive manner.
Chelsea’s manifestation of darkness is so relentless and so excessive that it may grow wearisome to some listeners. A subtle change in texture could’ve benefited the listening experience overall. Still, this is a fine debut that introduces an exciting new talent in indie-rock – one who’s destined for great things. The album’s foremost downside is its overall lack of surprise – each of the songs utilizing the same tone and color all the way through. But you can’t argue that Ἀποκάλυψις feels like a collection of ideas unified by a single purpose. For that, I applaud her.