If there’s one defining characteristic of Chelsea Wolfe’s music, it’s haunting. Her latest album, Apokalypsis, is a reverb-laden, ethereal exploration into the spiritual realm. With themes of darkness and light, chillingly served up with doomy, sludged-out guitar tones and ghostly vocal howls, Apokalypsis reveals Wolfe’s dark inner psyche.
So it’s not surprising when the singer-songwriter admits to having grown up with a graveyard in her backyard, where she penned many of her songs in younger years. Though she’s grown up quite a bit since being a teen paying homage to headstones, her preoccupation with the mystical has been a mainstay in her music.
“I have my feet on the ground, but I’m also really interested in having the spiritual experience, whatever that may be,” Wolfe says over the phone from her tour stop in North Carolina. “I’m interested in creating something that’s….Well; the content of a lot of my songs is sort of a curiosity about the spiritual realm. I think it’s created a bit of a curiosity with me, having that in my backyard. There were some really interesting songs being sung.”
That definitely comes through on Apokalypsis, which boasts song titles like “Demons”, “Tracks (Tall Bodies)”, and “Pale on Pale”. Coupled by the album’s artwork, which features Wolfe with a veil-like headdress hanging from her forehead, contrasting lights and whited-out eyes peering out of darkly-made up lids, the album is undeniably thematic from its title to its content.
“I chose a Greek word because it has multiple meanings,” Wolfe says of the album’s title. “It means apocalypse, of course. It just means the end of an era; it doesn’t have to mean the end of the world. The end of a time period in your life, or a phase of your life, and it also means revelation, so think kind of an epiphany. It’s kind of a major theme in the album: having epiphanies or just realizing truth, or finally seeing something with open eyes. That’s kind of what the cover art is about, too. And there is the lifting of the veil, which also relates.”
Speaking of which, the doom-folk songstress can often be seen wearing funeral type attire at many of her shows—including a long, black veil, but she attests that this isn’t quite an alter ego so much as a part of a complete musical and aesthetic performance.
“I don’t think of it so much as an alter ego, I think at first I wore a veil and very funeral-march attire, but I still wear a lot of black in general because I like it,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be symbolic for me anymore, I kind of like contrasts like black and white. I guess I just kind of go with what I’m feeling—I’m definitely into dramatic fashion, I’m always kind of messing around with that.”
Such bold musical and aesthetic moves seem to require a fair amount of confidence, which is ironic for the chanteuse who claims she wasn’t always sure she could pursue music the way she wanted to.
“I think I was pretty lost,” she says. “I went to five different colleges. I think I was just kind of all over the place—and the whole time I was playing music—I just, for some reason, never really dove into it until late 2009 when I put out my first record [The Grime and the Glow]. I was always trying to deny it, I guess, but finally gave in and started taking it seriously.”
Wolfe’s spiritual and musical curiosities seem to have finally paid off. The singer-songwriter already has two albums under her belt, with two more on the way, including Unknown Rooms, a collection of only acoustic tunes, coming out later this year.
Chelsea Wolfe plays the Biltmore Cabaret on September 8
By Kristi AlexandraBC, British Columbia