Perhaps the most aptly named album of the year, Abyss combines thunderous doom metal guitar riffs and quiet folk to create an experience that is like being thrown into a bottomless pit and eventually forgetting what sunshine and happiness feel like. This is high praise that I don’t toss around lightly.
Chelsea Wolfe is a prolific artist who never feels limited by genre, and her ability to effortlessly switch between the folk and heavy sounds on Abyss is an impressive musical feat. I’ve heard metal bands that try to mix in a quiet folk song and fail, and I’ve heard a lot of folk artists who (*shudder*) attempt to go heavy to try to gain rock cred and fall flat on their faces. Wolfe does both styles, often in the span of the same song, but it always feels cohesive and natural.
The album takes dynamics to the furthest possible limit, which makes for very dramatic and theatrical songs, with roaring crescendos mixed with near silence. Very little of this album is at a normal, reasonable volume. The dynamics also provide the fascinating duality of Abyss: somehow this album manages to feel epic and intimate at the same time. Wolfe’s voice and lyrics shine in the folkier stretches, but she’s not afraid to sometimes let her voice get buried by the guitar and noise, and the music really does sound like an abyss.
Abyss seems like a difficult album to love given its relentless bleakness, but I really love Wolfe’s artistry and intensity as a performer. She pushes her music to its limits here, going as deep into this hole as she possibly can and emerging with something that sounds truly special.