Growing up in Northern California, Chelsea Wolfe was always fascinated by Mother Nature. Whether it was themes of decay and growth, or motifs like the cyclical nature of the physical world, the push and pull of these forces shows up in her work again and again. Perhaps they’ve never been more prevalent than in her latest, sixth studio album, a magnificent seether called Hiss Spun that she describes as “the white noise of the universe.” That’s “hiss” at least, for her definition of “spun,” you’ll have to read on below.
Even if Wolfe is a veteran artist, she brings the ferocity of an emerging musician to everything she releases. So, in some ways, it feels like she’s just getting started. Though she’s been legendary in noise and metal circles for a while now, the mainstream is just getting wind of the gothic-folk musician, who deftly blends gossamer, medieval folk elements with raging walls of noise and doom metal. For just about a decade she has been combining the lightness of her gorgeous soprano voice and softer melodies with a darker, terrifying metal sound, slowly but surely carving out her own unique space in the music world — and making room for more women in the historically male-dominated bent of heavier music.
Hiss Spun is out this Friday, 9/22 via Sargent House, and it’s Wolfe’s third record for the label; she signed with them in 2013 for Pain Is Beauty, an album that helped her breakout to a wider audience. Based off what I’ve heard, I’d argue that Hiss Spun will be another breakout for Wolfe. Tracks like the angsty folk-metal of “The Culling,” or the sweetly gothic tumult of “Offering” are even more accessible for new listeners without losing any of their edge. In fact, the entire ethos for this album was about opening up. Taking inspiration from Henry Miller, Wolfe has done just that on Hiss Spun, digging through the mess for the marvel, and translating the whole process into distillations of that, like on “16 Psyche.”
In advance of the Friday release, Wolfe and I corresponded over email about her new record, which includes a cameo from one of her musical heroes turned friends, Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens Of The Stone Age, and some important collaborations on drums from her old friend Jess Gowrie. We also talked about inclusion, nature, and the song off the record that served as her own personal exorcism. Read our convo below for all of that, plus the final word from Wolfe on her album’s definition of “spun.”