By: Alicia Montellanos
Soon after Chelsea Wolfe announced the dates for their North American tour, the shows in New York and Boston sold out. It was no surprise to hear less than a week later that the show at The Regent—located in the band’s home city of Los Angeles—also sold out, despite the venue’s capacity for over a thousand people. Shows have continued to sell out every week, leaving no time for hesitation.
After standing in line for two hours people filled the theater calmly but very quickly. I knew there would be no way to grab a beer and keep my spot close to the front stage. But as soon as the music started playing I inevitably forgot about my thirst. After spiritual low folk band Wovenhand finished its set, band members of Chelsea Wolfe walked on stage for a quick and rough sound check, with the exception of Wolfe herself. The sound check transformed into an atmospheric and deep dissonance, smoke began to fill the dark stage when, at last, a tall figure dressed in black made her entrance.
The band opened with “Carrion Flowers” from their latest 2015 album Abyss (and also featured soundtrack for Fear of the Walking Dead). The song, as the rest of the album, translates beautifully into stage, fully capturing its apocalyptic and somber presence. Wolfe’s performance embodies the disconsolate mood that takes over her songs. Her intimidating gaze was fixed on the audience most of the time, sometimes looking empty, sometimes looking irremediably sad. Wolfe ended several songs by dropping on her knees and crawling towards her pedalboard to turn some knobs. Ben Chisholm oscillated on the left part of the stage, stroking his bass with such force, and occasionally nailing himself to his synth to play the more mellow tracks, like “House of Metal.” Aurielle Zeitley, stayed mostly motionless and kept to herself, piercing us with serious looks when she wasn’t looking at her guitar. Dylan Fujioka blasted his drums and even loosened one of his cymbals at one point but continued to hit it hard, without showing any sign of concern.
The performance was very powerful, and felt incredibly intimate, despite the size of the venue. The rhythm of the concert reflected the flow of Abyss, culminating in droning sounds, quieting down with faint strings and scratching cymbals, and then building up again with ringing drums and guitars. The set list was mostly comprised of tracks from Abyss and their 2013 album Pain is Beauty. The band revisited their sophomore album Apokalypsis with “Mer” and ended magnificently with “Pale on Pale.” This selection might have let down fans expecting to hear some of Wolfe’s early acoustic material, but with such an intense performance, I doubt anyone left disappointed.
Before storming off the stage without warning, Wolfe released screams that came from who knows where inside her body into the pick-ups of her guitar. Crawling one last time to her pedalboard, Wolfe left the place full of noise, prolonged by the rest of the band, who remained on stage for several minutes before abruptly introducing silence.
Despite the somber mood of the melodies that come from Chelsea Wolfe, the concert as whole promises a unique trance-like experience that can be enthralling and explosive, but never emotionally overwhelming (with the possible exception of “Pale on Pale”).