Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty

Dark Star Rising: Sacramento born singer/songwriter Chelsea Wolfe delivers on the promise of her last two albums in some style on the epic Pain Is Beauty. The buzz surrounding Wolfe was palpable when she played the Sugar Club in Dublin earlier this year. A near full house witnessed a set that demonstrated her versatility as she switched seamlessly between Goth guitar dirges and noir-ish ethereal folk, holding the audience spellbound for the duration of her ninety minute stint.

Her last record, Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs was an album of dusky, acoustic lullabies that was markedly different to the much heavier Apokalypsis released in 2011. Both these records saw Wolfe garner significant interest Stateside, and on the evidence of Pain Is Beauty, it won’t be long before the rest of us succumb to her charms.

After a move to a more pastoral feel on her last album, Pain Is Beauty leans heavier on the Goth influences of earlier records, but with a greater emphasis on electronica at its very core – the result is her most ambitious album thus far, a record steeped in a lush grandeur that is extremely seductive. This is Goth for grown-ups, beautiful and melodramatic, songs of such sweeping romance that they are impossible to resist.

Album highlight ‘The Waves Have Come’ typifies Wolfe’s approach on this record – cascading piano chords introduces a song that swells to overwhelming emotional peaks several times over the course of its eight minute running time. The effect is instant and dramatic –these are songs that grab you from the first listen. Cinematic strings accompany the stately paced ‘House of Metal’ – it is often difficult to hear the lyrics through the fog of reverb and effects but Wolfe could be reciting instructions for using a can opener and she would still make it make it sound impossibly and darkly romantic.

‘The Warden’ is exotic and opulent while the shadowy, sexual undercurrent that runs through tracks ‘Sick’ and ‘Reins’ is reminiscent of some of her earlier work. ‘They’ll Clap When You’re Gone’ opens with strummed acoustic guitars and Wolfe singing ‘I can feel the walls closing in/
And I don’t want to talk anymore’ before building towards a beautiful guitar and string drenched coda.

Exploring the darkness at the heart of these songs is almost pointless – this is music that relies on mood and feeling, rendering any deep analysis meaningless. Pain Is Beauty is an exquisite pleasure and the most fully realised version of Wolfe’s vision to date.


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)