"Pain Is Beauty" by Chelsea Wolfe on iTunes

12 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Despite the high school art-class album title, Chelsea Wolfe’s fourth album is a sophisticated song cycle that stretches her music into orchestral zones where the grandeur isn’t just necessary for her to get her point across. It's what makes the album such unlikely fun—especially coming from an artist who’s spent much time exploring things acoustically. Electronics become her. Not since the days of Nico or Nina Hagen have songs such as “Feral Love” sounded so naturally fluid. “Kings” takes this gothic warrior into rhythms that trip upon themselves and chord shifts that hit on a guttural level. Harmonies throughout are constructed for maximum minor-key reflection, and if one submits to Wolfe’s imagination, a peculiar sense takes hold. A giddier moment such as “The Warden” is disco-lite by comparison—but even someone composing within the dark arts needs to let off steam. “Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter” imagines what a world where bands such as Swans would be as popular as The Beatles. 

EDITORS’ NOTES

Despite the high school art-class album title, Chelsea Wolfe’s fourth album is a sophisticated song cycle that stretches her music into orchestral zones where the grandeur isn’t just necessary for her to get her point across. It's what makes the album such unlikely fun—especially coming from an artist who’s spent much time exploring things acoustically. Electronics become her. Not since the days of Nico or Nina Hagen have songs such as “Feral Love” sounded so naturally fluid. “Kings” takes this gothic warrior into rhythms that trip upon themselves and chord shifts that hit on a guttural level. Harmonies throughout are constructed for maximum minor-key reflection, and if one submits to Wolfe’s imagination, a peculiar sense takes hold. A giddier moment such as “The Warden” is disco-lite by comparison—but even someone composing within the dark arts needs to let off steam. “Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter” imagines what a world where bands such as Swans would be as popular as The Beatles. 

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5

65 Ratings

Extraordinary music

PGbola,

I pre-ordered Pain Is Beauty after hearing the eight minute long song The Waves Have Come streamed on SoundCloud. Such a remarkable song, I didn't care if the rest of the album was meh.

Well, it's not. This is major work: glorious, emotionally complex, beautiful and chilling and breath-taking music. Thank you, Ms. Wolfe.

Extraordinary, one of the year's best

Koreatown Kid,

This is an extraordinary album. Chelsea Wolfe's first three albums only hinted at the the total mastery of her craft on display here, and by all rights, "Pain is Beauty" should herald her ascent to greater acclaim and a broader audience. The goth-drenched guitar dynamics of her earlier masterwork, 2011's "Apokalypsis," are at once more dense and nuanced here, with signs of light shining through the darkness. From the seductive analog electronic pulse of "The Warden" to the epic sorrow of "The Waves Have Come" -- a tale told from the perspective of a man widowed by a tsunami -- the songs range from the extremely personal to the universal. Holding it all together is her gorgeous voice, by turns whispering and wailing. Chelsea Wolfe is the real deal, and this album is another major step forward in her stunning career. A great entry point for new fans, as well. One of the year's best albums.

About Chelsea Wolfe

Crafting "doom-drenched electric folk," Los Angeles' Chelsea Wolfe grew up in Northern California with a father who had a country band and his own home studio, so she was immersed in music at an early age and began recording herself at age nine; by the time she was in fourth grade, she knew she wanted to be a singer. However, it wasn't until 2009, when she returned from a three-month tour with a performance artist friend in spaces including old nuclear factories, that she began making music for others to hear. Wolfe recorded with her friends on a portable eight-track, the results of which became her 2010 debut album, The Grime and the Glow. Wolfe also contributed a radically different version of the Strokes' "The Modern Age" to a tribute to the band curated by Stereogum.com, and her song "Moses" was used as the soundtrack to artist/director Richard Phillips' short film Sasha Grey.

After moving to L.A., Wolfe recorded her second album, Apokalypsis, in a proper studio, working with musicians including Ben Chisholm; it was released by Pendu Sound Recordings in August 2011. Wolfe took a few musicians, including Chisholm, into the Northern California woods to record Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, which was released in October 2012. Prayer for the Unborn, her contribution to Southern Records' Latitudes EP series, arrived a few weeks later. Nearly a year later, Wolfe returned with the more electronic-leaning Pain Is Beauty, which featured Chisholm as a co-producer as well as the work of longtime bandmembers Kevin Dockter and Dylan Fujioka. She then collaborated with King Dude on a pair of split singles and appeared on Russian Circles' fifth album, Memorial. Lone, an hourlong movie directed by Mark Pellington and featuring music from Pain Is Beauty, was released in 2014.

For her fourth full-length, Abyss, Wolfe shifted gears again, focusing on the doomiest metal-inspired aspects of her music. Along with Chisholm and Fujioka, her collaborators included producer John Congleton and Russian Circles' Mike Sullivan. The album arrived in August 2015. The following year, Wolfe released the single "Hypnos," and she and Chisholm were among the performers at Blood Moon, a series of European collaborative live shows with Converge. The band's Kurt Ballou recorded Wolfe's fifth album, Hiss Spun, in Salem, Massachusetts. Featuring drummer Jess Gowrie -- with whom Wolfe had been in a band years before -- as well as Chisholm, Old Man Gloom's Aaron Turner, and Queens of the Stone Age's Troy Van Leeuwen, the 2017 album was even heavier than its predecessor. ~ Heather Phares

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