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Album Reviews: Chelsea Wolfe — She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She

I don’t think any subculture has undergone a more depressing evolution over the years the goths. It was once a proud and bustling community so vast that you couldn’t even go to a local pizza joint without hearing about Robert Smith’s ridiculous hair. It’s been left behind in history as a niche, only populated by those truly dedicated to the subculture and people who are passionate about the looks of the people within it. A third sect of people also hold interest, among which I count myself, and those are the people still invested in the music coming out of the scene, a pretty irrelevant group overall.

From Drab Majesty to Choir Boy, many exciting new bands are coming in to fill the mascara-drenched niche, but no modern goth act has gained more acclaim in the dorkiest corners of the modern indie music sphere than Chelsea Wolfe. For the uninitiated, Wolfe is a Californian musician who made minor waves in the underground scene with albums like “Apokalypsis” and “Pain Is Beauty.” Wolfe specializes in gloomy mixes of Darkwave, Industrial, Gothic Rock, and other genres that mean nothing to those unfamiliar. She’s been creating since 2011, accumulating a wealth of experience with these genres and releasing albums consistently until 2019. After releasing that year’s “Birth Of Violence,” she took a five-year hiatus from solo music. In the meantime, she collaborated on an album with metalcore band Converge and composed the soundtrack for the movie “X.” So, the question posed by her newest album, “She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She,” is whether all that experience throughout her career, as well as the hiatus, can shine through here. The answer?—mostly.

“She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She” is quite different from her last album, “Birth Of Violence,” which had a more Gothic Country/Dark Folk kind of feel to it, one that I didn’t like very much. It felt like stripping her sound back too far, to the point where it exposed all the weak spots of the songwriting, much like how stripping back a person’s skin usually exposes their weak spots and vital organs to the wind and sharp pine needles. Conversely, “She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She” is far more full and maximalist, filling the cracks and crevices in the songs with thick layers of industrial instrumentation and complex string work. Now, that is not to say every song is directly unique from each other. I swear every other track on the album uses a detuned snare that sounds like smacking a big glass jar of rice, but at the very least, it’s to the benefit of the album’s crushing and despondent sound. The opener, “Whispers In The Echo Chamber,” sets the tone appropriately and also transitions the last album’s sound into a new direction while, importantly, having an impact, unlike the previous album. This grand, cinematically crushing, and industrial slow burn climaxes into harsh swells of noisy synths. It’s a fantastic opener and an even better scene-setter for the album.

This smoothly transitions into “House Of Self Undoing,” which promptly picks up the pace with lovely swelling synths reminiscent of a melodic version of the THX sound. The track is punctuated with fast breakbeats in the background and amazing electric guitars, giving it an incredible speed and urgency, like the type of music you’d hear in a gothic slasher film. All of this is slathered in her hauntingly angelic voice. Her voice contrasts nicely with the grit of the instrumentals, which is a significant improvement caused by the switch back to fuller sound palettes. One of the biggest issues with stripping things back with Wolfe is that the general softness of her voice tends to blend into and grate against the track when she lacks the backing of the noisier passages to throw her voice into sharper relief. Her voice is shown expertly on the track “Everything Turns Blue,” having the proper power and force you’d want on a track. It’s grand and swelling—but still dark and gothic. Her voice bellows, and the listener feels the loss she’s singing about on the track; it immerses the listener in its pain.

Unlike my last review, I won’t go track by track because I have nothing unique to say about every track. That’s where my first nitpick comes from: the album blends into itself too much for my liking. I love albums with one distinct sound, but it becomes an issue when it’s hard to pick out distinct moments from an album that I consider highlights. At the very least, though, it’s an absorbing experience while it lasts, the same way dunking your head into a vat of oil is. It’s grimy, dark, and sometimes makes you feel like you can’t breathe. It fully immerses you in this industrial gothic factory, where the smoke threatens to choke you down, and the machines threaten to rip you apart. It makes me feel like I’m in a universal horror version of “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair.

For the sake of the review, some other big highlights include “Unseen World,” which has wonderful build-up and release throughout. It fluctuates, going up and down in sound like the world’s most nightmarish roller coaster, culminating in a harsh set of synths blaring by the end, like factory alarms. The track “Tunnel Lights” is also great; it features a great mix of ambient strings set over an echoing piano riff before blasting you with harsh, noisy passages and is backed by solid cymbal tapping throughout. I also quite liked the closer “Dusk,” which, in contrast to “Unseen World,” builds up for the first half of the track before releasing into a wonderful flurry of electric guitars and synths. A wonderfully hooky refrain from Wolfe bolsters this further, closing off on a painfully triumphant note.

And that’s “She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She”—a fantastic foot forward from Ms. Wolfe, even if the title gives me carpal tunnel to type each time. It proves that she still possesses the ability to blat me in the face with her instrumentation while still crafting beauty under all the industrial noise. As for whether it’s a brand-new sound from Wolfe? Well, it certainly stays in the comfort zone she’s built up over her career. At the very least, it feels like the culmination of everything her sound has provided over the years. It excites me for whatever other demented direction she goes with all this in future releases, even if it’s her drowning me in tar instead of oil.

Cover Art is from Chelsea Wolfe’s album, it can be accessed at


Kate Megathlin

Hello there stranger, this is Kate Megathlin, writer for weekly music reviews for the Seattle Collegian, here to assert how much more important her opinions are than yours. She is a Seattle Central student with a major love of music and music culture, and every week she’ll try to deliver reviews of new albums coming out, if you want to recommend albums for her to review, email her at

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