Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Curtis Henderson at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
It's never anything that we'd wish for ourselves, but it's a fascinating thing to listen to - that human unraveling, the shedding, piece-by-piece. It's about purging and it's about coming clean, but something always remains stained on the inside, as if someone once spilled a goblet of a dark red wine over us and it's that blemish that our eyes are drawn to without fail. It's the flaw that remains with us, unable to be rubbed out.
It feels like the unraveling is always more complete when it's heard in the songs on Los Angeles songwriter Chelsea Wolfe, like it were some kind of a stalking. It's as if things have gone ahead and wound themselves back up and unraveled a second time, just for good measure, for the full melting down. It's as if the wine glass that was spilled was of a black wine that no one would even attempt to try and pull it out of one's skin, as the effort would be futile. We tend to catch these spells in their reflective period, just after the heaving and the bluster have cooled and there's no energy left to get worked up all over again. A sedative has taken hold and there's more rational thinking being done. It could just be stunned silence as well. Things have gone from sunny to grim, overcast skies and it looks to be a prolonged feature that Wolfe applies to the day.
She makes us feel like we're crossing icy waters. We're walking through a stream that's THIS close to being frozen over for the winter months, but for a little while still, it's open water. It's nearly unbearable, the brutal nature of the water's coldness. It cuts through us in a blink and it steals our breath away, almost like someone just socked us in the chest with a sledgehammer, a solid and flush hit with all the power imaginable behind it. It's a piercing sort of emotion. It feels like we should essentially be hollowed out, but we're actually just cavernous, with lots of things happening inside so that the movements and the activity just make doom-like sounds, booming off the walls, chasing out the bats that have entered through the rotted out attic to sleep.
We're taken along on a misery carousel that feels as if it might actually be a dream sequence. It feels like there's great pain lurking somewhere, but we hear it like a far off echo. It seems as if there's hurting, but it's hard to figure out what all the smiles are about. It's the kind of hurt that feels good to feel. We'd like for that to mean nothing, but we all know that's not true. Wolfe knows that nothing could be more false.
*Essay originally published February, 2012