Chelsea Wolfe is a once-in-a–generation artist—a musician as prolific as she is restless, with an evolving discography spanning -metal, industrial and folk, often on the same record.
Her voice is unmistakable, and no matter where her attention might turn sonically, each song is undoubtedly her own. It is ritual, drenched in otherworldly imagery and witchcraft. However, there's something special about her most recent effort, Birth of Violence, that almost intones a cosmic realignment of the ritual itself. Wolfe acknowledges this change to SFR over Skype.
"This album feels like a shift to me," she says. "I feel like it's the beginning of this healing process, for lack of better words."
Said healing process has yielded an album laser-focused in sound, lyrics and production. Acoustic at its core, Violence shares more in common with the tonality of Wolfe's 2012 acoustic release Unknown Rooms than it does with her last LP, the deeply metal Hiss Spun. Her vocals, normally drenched in ethereal chamber reverbs and delay, are now direct, prominent and present in ways unheard on -previous outings.
"I wanted the vocal production to be very upfront and honest," Wolfe explains. "A lot of the lyrics were inspired just by navigating this world as a woman, and being more in touch with my feminine side."
Themes of femininity, transformation and empowerment are replete throughout the album, beginning with urgency on "The Mother Road," a song Wolfe says she wrote the chorus to while "lying on a concrete floor backstage" after playing two shows in one day. It serves as the album's thesis, a track that begins as a folk ballad and ends in an emotional surge.
She says the song "felt like it was the thing that connected the album together."
"Women know what it means to endure," she sings as the song reaches crescendo. A lesser talent might make those words sound cloying or trite, but in Wolfe's capable hands, they are a matter of fact and truth; "bloom and eclipse them, wake up and transform," the song concludes. The album might be about transformation and discovery, but at its core, it's also an album of female empowerment.
This isn't exactly a new concept. "Girl power" music is on display in nearly -every corner of the industry, but its -femininity often becomes a finely polished commodity test-marketed, photoshopped and sold to us as an ideal. Said ideal is ever-changing and can be out of reach for most of us who identify as women. It leaves us damaged and out of touch with ourselves—and let's not forget how many women don't see this ideal having resonance inside of who they are. Because of this, getting in touch with our femininity can feel like a Sisyphean task, and the women in music who package such tropes do so because it's one of the few ways we can assert any version of our power in a male-dominated space.
But in the last decade or so, there has been an insurgence of bands created and fronted by women whose empowerment doesn't directly correlate to market share; women who are creating dark, confrontational music. Such themes of empowerment and discovery run central on Violence.
Wolfe tells SFR she doesn't know if she can speak for the movement itself, but, she says, "I do think that more and more women artists—and people in general— are rising up, wanting to be themselves, and not having to fit into some certain mold of femininity. I know for myself, I used to feel very androgynous and in–between. I feel like that might have sometimes been a protective mechanism, to help me navigate this world that was very male dominated. I was protecting myself, but I was also being myself."
There's a confessional tone to this statement. And when recognizing that the scope of Wolfe's career has been one that aligns her creative output with genres that are almost exclusively the purview of masculinity, to write -something so -distinctly feminine in -perspective and—perhaps more importantly—feminine on its own terms, is an act of defiance, -reclamation and rebellion.
"Something in my brain and art changed a little bit. I wanted to connect to this more feminine side," Wolfe explains of entering her 30s, adding that getting into witchcraft "kind of naturally led me that way, so I started putting more and more of that into my music."
Thus, Birth of Violence is the type of album someone can only create when they have been both cudgel and flower. Wrapped in healing circles and deep magics, Wolfe has outdone herself in every way. When her live show comes to Meow Wolf, she'll present it intimately, -acoustic and vulnerable, with a performance -"created to be a protective base."
7 pm Tuesday Nov. 12.
Meow Wolf, 1352 Rufina Circle,