Although Chelsea Wolfe has collaborated with members of Converge, Neurosis, and Russian Circles in the past, her music has always been more metal-adjacent than actual metal, though she’s been inching closer to the genre with each ensuing release. 2015’s Abyss, with its damaged industrial sounds and heavy guitar work from Russian Circles’ Mike Sullivan, was her closest bid yet, but Hiss Spun, dropping later this year, is sounding like it’ll actually breach the walls of full-blown metaldom.
Lead single “16 Psyche” was a good place to start, with Wolfe’s haunting vocals naturally lending themselves to a doomy dirge with wounded riffing by Queens of the Stone Age’s Troy Van Leeuwen. Wolfe’s powerful vocals have sometimes seemed caged in by her moody neo-folk surroundings, and if there was ever a fitting sonic backdrop for their coming-out party, that bottomless doom metal was it. But Wolfe is prepared to get even more metal still, as evidenced by Hiss Spun’s second pre-release track, “Vex.”
Despite beginning with a riff that’s even heavier than the one on “16 Psyche,” a more blackened, gnarled beast, the song weaves us through a few skillful fake-outs before blowing the roof off the sucker. The drum-and-bass groove that follows is more post-punk than post-metal, and for a second it seems like we might be in the midst of another Wolfe song in which the metallic elements are just set dressing. Then, at the end of the chorus, she lets out a wordless rasp, the intro riff jumps back in, and when the groove returns, it’s accompanied by tremolo picking that could almost pass for black metal.
The big guns on “Vex” only come out in the song’s final third though. The wide-open-wasteland intro riff interlocks with the black metal atmospherics, Wolfe’s vocals retreat to the back of the mix, and then wham-- Aaron Turner of post-metal pioneers Isis is barking in our faces. It’s undoubtedly the heaviest thing Wolfe’s ever done, and the marriage of her gothic stomp rock with full-on metal makes the final minute’s payoff all the more unexpected and satisfying.
Hiss Spun is set to arrive on September 22nd via Sargent House. Van Leeuwen plays guitar on multiple songs, Turner guests on “Vex,” and most crucially, Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou (possibly the most in-demand producer in metal) is behind the boards. Pre-order it and scope Wolfe’s fall tour dates on her official website.