There’s something sinister about thinking of the unknown, and goth folk queen Chelsea Wolfe is aware of that, with a sad half-smile on her face. On her latest release Unknown Rooms, Wolfe melds a distinctive aesthetic, rooted in the passing winds of her family’s background in country music and an affinity for Norwegian black metal, to form a compelling acoustic compilation.
Wolfe excels in creating a visceral, albeit ethereal, sense of place for the unsuspecting listener. Listening to Unknown Rooms, you can imagine yourself walking around an abandoned house, unsure of what’s happened, or what’s to come.
Opener “Flatlands” bites like drafty air, the throbbing chord of a single violin in the distant background creating a tension and tone that permeates the frigid album. Wolfe’s vocals, wicked and wonderful, channel Morticia Adams and Beth Gibbons alike, emphasized by themes that revolve around past regrets and the inevitability of a demise. The grimly titled “I Died With You” highlights this by aptly capturing the finality of death.
Layered with hums and ghostly harmonies, Unknown Rooms resonates almost as a film score, channeling a country-singed Portishead intensely with the airy “Appalachia”. “Boyfriend”, in particular, reverberates as an homage, as though created to accompany the heroic death of a tragic hero burning at the funeral pyre.
Unknown Rooms is admittedly an endeavor to listen to as a whole. But with the dense themes and music also comes reward: an acceptance for the unknown, and plucking the bizarre beauty from the inevitable. If we had to predict the alternative titles for Unknown Rooms, “Songs For Dying” and “The Whitest Winter” would probably be solid choices.
Essential Tracks: “Flatlands”, “Hyper Oz”