Photo: Ben Chisolm
Photo: Ben Chisolm

Heavy bass reigned when Chelsea Wolfe stepped on the stage at Lee’s Palace. She was the harbinger of the world’s end, and the band, all clad in a soulless black, was ready to gang up with her to feast on the essence of beauty. From then on in, the Neofolk singer’s signature brand of misery silenced the audience.

“Carrion Flowers” began the set and instantly set off head-banging in the crowd when the pound of the chorus came in. Dylan Fujioka’s drumming was noteworthy throughout the entire show, at times sounding like bones shattering and at other times, like when “Maw” was performed, to overpower Wolfe and the rest of the instrumentation. The second song “Dragged Out”, highlighted that although the group’s playing is haunting, it would be interesting to see the band expand their arsenal of sound with the inclusion of quick and semi-sharp feedback. Though this is a suggestion, it’s good to see the band’s growth through their exploration of different shades of dark.

It’s clear that throughout Wolfe’s discography her choice of instrumentation had been key to crafting something an elder Wiccan can be proud of. For instance, “Mer” a track off her sophomore release Apokalypsis, felt much rawer than a song like “House of Metal,” with its use of melodic slides and less of a bass-laden background. When tracks “Survive” or “After the Fall,” from her latest release Abyss were performed, the volume could cause a coliseum to crumble. This new material emphasizes something sludgier than her synth experimentation in Pain is Beauty. Aside from being heavy, the group still knows how to intrigue audiences with their more depressing takes, such as “Simple Death,” where it could be argued that if this was to be the last song ever heard, then we would have experienced some of the most worthwhile minutes of our collective existence. Whether soft or loud, the stage presence of being intense and brooding did not falter.

The group does not stand relaxed while they play. Bassist and keyboardist Ben Chisholm intensely played his notes. At one point, it appeared as if the head of his bass guitar was swinging wildly enough to crush lead guitarist Aurielle Zeitler’s skull and often pounced like a tiger at his keys for heavier takes. Wolfe did what she was born to do on stage: lose her mind. She made haunting ghost calls and howled, something that, unfortunately, overshadowed Zeitler’s vocals when the carnivorous “Feral Love” reached its end. The album version of the song was more complete with those vocals, so to have those lyrics in the background was a let down. “Pale on Pale” closed off the set, ending the show on a note reminiscent of the darkness within Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The drum solo that concluded the show gave energy to the beast that was the band.

Chelsea Wolfe’s continued efforts toward a specific sound have indicated one thing that is especially true live: she has a confident grasp of instrumentation, one that produces stellar results. In her ever-growing search for darkness, one can only wonder what depths she and her band will reach next.

Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.