Release Date: Oct 16, 2012
Record label: Sargent House
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
In a child’s eyes, hidden and forbidden spaces simultaneously produce both the effect of a chilling desolation that slips underneath one’s skin, preventing movement and action, and the effect of a comforting warmth of secrecy and solitude, the sovereignty of the enclosed individual. In these moments of silence, emptiness, and foggy mystique, drifting in a Stygian odyssey, the unknown makes itself (un)known. It is in this atmosphere that Chelsea Wolfe’s latest album Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs exists.
Chelsea Wolfe gained an audience for her dark dirges with her 2011 breakthrough album Apokalypsis, but Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs isn't exactly a logical follow-up -- which makes it all the more interesting. Wolfe reteamed with several of the players who helped her make Apokalypsis as fittingly doomy as it was, including Ben Chisholm, but this time she and her crew focus on the fragility and versatility of her voice, a couple of things that occasionally got lost in her previous album's brooding, lo-fi din. Strings feature heavily on Unknown Rooms, and on songs such as "The Way We Used To," they complement her voice perfectly, to the point where the delicacy and fluidity of her singing suggests a violin, and vice-versa.
Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, Chelsea Wolfe’s third album, is such a vast departure from the scuzzy, lo-fi and downright demonic goth-folk we’ve come to expect from the northern California native that a clarifying subtitle was necessary. “Acoustic” is not a word that would be used to describe either of her first two albums. 2010’s The Grime and the Glow is filled with faraway spectral transmissions, some with traditional pop song formats and some comprised of plodding, droning distortion and Wolfe’s moaning vocals.
On her acoustic record Unknown Rooms, Chelsea Wolfe allows a few sunrays to poke into the lightless sepulchre she built on 2011's Apokalypsis. That record, with its gothic, bloodstained imagery and bleak post-punk guitars, carried all the warmth of a medieval hex: It opened with a gurgling, feral scream that sounded like something peeling off your skin with its incisors. Wolfe's vocals channeled PJ Harvey in full Rid of Me "lick my injuries" mode, and earlier she'd released a cover of the cheery Burzum number "Black Spell of Destruction".
Chelsea WolfeUnknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs[Sargent House; 2012]By Joshua Pickard; November 16, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGThe muddied end-of-days obsession that was a hallmark of Chelsea Wolfe’s 2010 debut Apokalypsis seems, in forethought, to have been merely the shaking out of cobwebs and sedentary grime from some hollowed out grotto. The stripped down songs on her newest album Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs feel even more intimate and cautionary, as Wolfe further denudes her songs from their lo-fi goth presentation. And while the title is somewhat deceptive, as these songs do have more accompaniment than just an acoustic guitar--though just barely in some cases--they do feel warmer and more inviting than those on her debut.
There’s something sinister about thinking of the unknown, and goth folk queen Chelsea Wolfe is aware of that, with a sad half-smile on her face. On her latest release Unknown Rooms, Wolfe melds a distinctive aesthetic, rooted in the passing winds of her family’s background in country music and an affinity for Norwegian black metal, to form a compelling acoustic compilation. Wolfe excels in creating a visceral, albeit ethereal, sense of place for the unsuspecting listener.
For an album inspired by epiphanies, Chelsea Wolfe's previous album, 2011's Apokalypsis, was surprisingly dense. Beginning with rasps and distorted screams, its songs played out beneath a blanket of feedback, drones and reverb. Anyone who has been stunned to hair-raising silence while watching Wolfe perform 'Halfsleeper' (from 2010's The Grime & the Glow) will testify to Wolfe's immense talent.