LIVE: Chelsea Wolfe, A Short Play in Three Acts

The queen of icy horror takes her show to Brooklyn.
LIVE: Chelsea Wolfe, A Short Play in Three Acts

The queen of icy horror takes her show to Brooklyn.

Words: Carrie Tucker

photo by Shaina Hedlund

September 11, 2015

Chelsea Wolfe // photo by Shaina Hedlund

Chelsea Wolfe
with Wovenhand

September 8, 2015
Saint Vitus Bar
Brooklyn, NY


Venerable metal bar Saint Vitus Bar—small, but somehow not dark enough for the evening to come; hosting Players (below) the eve of their bigger show at another venue.


Wovenhand—aka David Eugene Edwards, former leader of 16 Horsepower; latest album Refractory Obdurate sharp departure from earlier offerings.

Chelsea Wolfe—Artist with voice like cracked ice, presence like midnight; latest opus Abyss a swirl of black magic and doom.

Audience—no introduction needed.

Act I

David Eugene Edwards, he of the once-dark folk, now Red Lorry Yellow Lorry-esque post-punk, he of the straw hat and visual dissonance, crisp vocals and bombastic drums—he commands respect. Cold and serious, he’s the perfect contrast to the exhausting summer heat from which everyone arrives slightly wilted, yet full of restless energy, moving together in small groups and then breaking apart like clotted blood. Arms dangle to Edwards’ angular music, shoulders sway. Is the Audience paying attention, do they realize the reverse dramatic irony of a Christian singer, lyrics laced with deep Biblical references, partnered on a tour with an artist who sings stories of the River Styx and the Devil’s body?

No. They are texting.

Act II
Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe’s music has always been dark, but ethereal dark; you could put your hand through it and come away with wisps and frills of longing for something more, the kind of more that lives in solitude. 2013’s Pain Is Beauty experimented with her previous musical form and showed an artist grown up, more confident. Its follow-up, this year’s Abyss—well now, there’s little ethereal about it. And that’s glorious.

She rises from the floor like a wraith, hair in face, opening with “Carrion Flowers” and “Dragged Out,” low-end bass and growly, sludgy guitars resonating deep in the chest. For the first time in a very long time, the skin of my arms prickles and raises: goosebumps.

Chelsea Wolfe, Another View

The majority of Abyss is played during the roughly seventy-minute set, with songs like “After the Fall” rawer live and better in the closeness of the club. “House of Metal” and “We Hit A Wall” harken back to the days when Wolfe’s music called to mind not destruction but longing and loneliness.

After an epic “Survive” (stripped down to its essence) and “Color of Blood,” with Wolfe’s voice as much her instrument as her guitar, the music tapers away into crashing high hats. Wolfe steps off stage and plunges into the crowd, swallowed by blackness. A fitting exit.