Click here to check out the full gallery of Chelsea Wolfe + Mammifer @ Rickshaw Theatre
L.A. based Chelsea Wolfe washed out Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre with a wave of impassioned vocals and full-bodied, murky bass. A dramatic figure in a musical culture so dominated by males, Wolfe’s music finds difficulty in comparison; few female vocalists portray such unconventional vocal intensity and few to none can match the sheer volume and weight of her backing band. From the initial rumblings of “Carrion Flowers,” it was clear that the evening would involve a heavy dosage of brooding volume.
Low, blistering tones rumbled through the venue, bassist Ben Chisholm displayed dramatic stage presence as he held his instrument like a weapon, unleashing each and every booming bass note. Her backing musicians were extremely admirable in their own right; Chelsea Wolfe could not easily replicate her style with just any other musicians. Vicious guitar soundscapes approach the realm of Electric Wizard, which is one way of saying that Chelsea Wolfe plays some of the heaviest tones that fall on the psychedelic side of metal. The swirling, brooding guitar feedback, booming bass and crashing cymbals buttressed Wolfe’s voice in refreshing and unique fashion. Her approach relies on heavy juxtaposition of bewitching feedback and spiritualized, elongated vocals. The tone of the music is deep, the tempo, often slow.
Wolfe successfully matches several musical genres that have seldom married; while there has been some mainstream success in artists like Evanescence, Wolfe works with a significantly heavier and more abstract pallet. Unfortunately, Chelsea Wolfe’s music suffers from perpetual highlights of her femininity, an unnecessary action given the brooding merits of her voice and obvious talent of her supporting musicians. Although her voice is a powerful highlight, her presence is slightly compromised through over-focus, which is all the more apparent given the incredible chemistry of the band, who are relegated to the role of supporting musicians instead of bandmates.
Wolfe’s voice is a highlight, her idiosyncratic vocal style warrants comparison to the best artist female voices such as Beth Gibbons of Portishead and Black Mountain’s Amber Webber, but her music does not include the same elements of diversity of sound. Wolfe’s latest album Abyss blends long, sweet, melancholy-sounding female voice with a healthy dose of gothic metal in surprisingly tasteful fashion.
Since few people sound anything like Chelsea Wolfe, her style is anything but played out. How refreshing! Chelsea Wolfe conjured a deep, emotional, dark-daydreaming attack that hit the audience like a tidal wave. This Wolfe has some teeth.