The weekly Pop & Hiss rundown of the weekend's top concerts.
Most opt to open an album with a song. Some may go with a skit. Local singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe, however, has opted for a scare tactic.
The opening track on her sophmore effort "Ἀποκάλυψις" (we'll get to the title in a moment) is a 24-second vocal attack. The screams and growls sound as if they belong to some heretofore unknown hellhound. Thankfully, at just the moment when any nonpossessed listener would shut the song off, Wolfe eases up.
That's not to say that there isn't any weirdness that follows, but what stands out on tracks such as "Mer" and "Tall Bodies" is a far more inviting sense of doom. Wolfe's voice is urgent, but with an old-fashioned classicism, and her guitar work is sparse, but more hypnotic than haunted.
So why put the listener on guard in the album's opening moments?
"I thought it was a good way to set the mood," Wofe said. "There’s something spiritual, but also something really grounded, about it. Those screams could be interpreted as something demonic, or something coming from Earth."
Lines and styles are walked carefully throughout "Ἀποκάλυψις," which takes its name from the Greek word for revelations and apocalypse. Wolfe, who opens for metal act Liturgy on Saturday at an early show at the Echo, grew up with music, although of a much lighter variety. Wolfe was raised in Sacramento, and her father played with a little-known western band. Don't press her for too many details on her father's music, however, as she admits she "didn't really know what they were doing."
She did, however, sneak into his studio, where she developed a loner's appreciation for songcraft. "I enjoy recording, especially alone," she said. "I like to feel totally free, create a soundscape around me and get lost in it. I’m not a gear person or anything like that. I like to work with whatever I have."
While much of her "Ἀποκάλυψις" is a mood piece, Wolfe finds plenty of room to roam in the shadows. A rhythmic stomp consumes the guitar horizons of "Demons," whereas "The Wasteland" is aural cataclysm, a rush of hiss and studio effects. Meanwhile, cuts such as "Moses" and "Pale on Pale" take more of an electric folk feel, although echo as if they were recorded in an abandoned church.
"I’m really inspired by visual art -- Ingmar Bergman, David Lynch -- and literature," Wolfe said. "So I’m trying to make something visual with sound. I want it to be visual in the listener’s head while they’re hearing it." -- Todd Martens
Chelsea Wofe with Liturgy at the Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. Early show at 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 at the door.