Chelsea Wolfe connects womanhood to the natural world in Birth of Violence | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Chelsea Wolfe connects womanhood to the natural world in Birth of Violence 

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click to enlarge Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe

John Crawford

Listening to Chelsea Wolfe is like watching a fog roll in and wondering if a storm will follow; her music provokes an uncanny feeling that combines mystifying beauty and deep anxiety. The singer-songwriter has spent much of the past few years on the road, touring in support of 2015’s Abyss and 2017’s Hiss Spun, both of which are heavily influenced by industrial rock and doom metal. Her recent sixth studio album, Birth of Violence (Sargent House), has a calmer presence, but it’s no less unsettling. Wolfe wrote its material as she got acquainted with her new home in a remote, woodsy part of northern California. “There was a shift in me, and I felt connected to being a woman more physically and started exploring that more,” she said in an August interview with Consequence of Sound. “It’s about navigating the world as a woman. . . . It’s about balancing that soft and strong energy.” Throughout the album, the natural world provides metaphors for this duality, with Wolfe’s ecofeminist lyrics drawing connections between women and the earth. In “Erde” (“Earth” in German) Wolfe sings, “We cried together / Erde / Woman is the origin.” The album ebbs and flows like a wave, building from ballads such as “American Darkness” into the climactic “Deranged for Rock & Roll” (the record’s most rock-oriented song), then pulling back to acoustic tracks that echo the airiness of 2012’s Unknown Rooms, and finally concluding in an ominous cloud of sampled thunder and rain (“The Storm”). The second half of the album can be a bit sleepy, but even when the songs blend together, Wolfe’s narrative lyricism keeps them engaging. On Birth of Violence she appears transformed into a lone, stoic figure—the type of woman who stands in the fog and beckons the storm.   v

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