This second gig in London at Bush Hall, which was also part of the EuropeanAbysstour, was announced as early as August 2015. Having been completely taken over by the atmosphere of Chelsea Wolfe’s last album ‘Abyss’ I was counting the days to this gig since its announcement.

Moreover, Bush Hall is a venue which I have associated with the unique experience of having watched Wovenhand perform live there. Since Chelsea Wolfe and Wovenhand toured together in America just before she started her European tour, seeing her perform live at Bush Hall seemed to be the natural course of things.

From AC/DC to country music

DC_1Dylan Carlson, the musician behind the band Earth, was the opening act for this gig and he appeared on stage exactly at the announced time, wearing a burgundy coloured jacket. Dylan Carlson has said in the past that it was after listening to AC/DC that he decided that he wanted to write music and that he was a big fan of Scorpions, UFO& Diamond Head. During his show at Bush Hall he played songs which didn’t have lyrics, choosing to focus our interest on his guitar playing. The audience warmly applauded him and it seemed that he captivated everybody’s attention as if having created an unbreakable wall enclosing him and us. Dylan Carlson is focusing his solo work on acoustic, country melodies and this is exactly the style of songs that he played for us. He played ‘warm’ melodies in the guitar and he humbly introduced each song to us. Earlier this year, Dylan Carlson self released his album entitled ‘Falling DC_5with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders from the House of Albion’. This album is inspired by the English folk tradition, it includes 7 ballads about faeries, ffayes, fairies, elves, knights, witches and was released in 150 numbered copies. It is worth mentioning that the music of Earth is ‘heavy’ and much ‘darker’ in colours than the solo work of Dylan Carlson. Earth has been touring with Sun o)))) the music of whom, it has influenced.

Taking into consideration the style of Chelsea Wolfe’s music, I liked that Dylan Carlson didn’t focus on playing drone/doom sounds for his show at the Bush Hall, because this created a nice introduction to her show and only increased our impatience to see Chelsea Wolfe on stage.

There are two schools of playing music: play as many notes as possible, or play fewer notes and make the notes more expressive. I’ve always striven for the second…(Dylan Carlson, extract from an interview)

Chelsea Wolfe ‘Abyss’ live on stage

CW_8The notes of Carrion Flowers filled the space and a thick black impenetrable noisy sonic texture was ‘thrown’ all over us as one by one, the musicians of Chelsea Wolfe’s band, appeared on stage amidst warm applauds. Chelsea Wolfe found her place in front of us and it felt that there was a shared strong eagerness amongst the audience to listen to her! Almost immediately I noticed that her eyes were painted black and visually it seemed as if she was wearing a discreet, almost invisible, mask. It took real skill and persistence to be able to actually see her eyes and because of this, it felt as if this was a way for her to ‘hide in plain sight’. It was brilliant, almost like a veil through which only she could see us. This stage appearance was in line with the impression of her album ‘Abyss’ where our focus is drawn mainly on the atmosphere that the vocals create together with the music rather than on the vocals alone. Dragged Out was next in the set list and I was delighted to be able to listen to it live, as it isCW_9 one of my favourite songs from Chelsea Wolfe’s almost perfect album entitled ‘Abyss’. The reality was somehow different as the shrieking noises that we hear in the album, turned out to be samples and during the chorus of the song, I began to realize that the voice was not heard as clearly, as loudly or as dramaticaly as it was in the album. The almost agonizing, breathtaking way in which this song is being performed in the album was not replicated during the live show. As a result, I didn’t feel the emotional intensity that this song is meant to create, because the sound of all the instruments was constantly kept higher than the voice throughout this gig.

Simple Death feels infinite
Compared to the end of it all
                                                           Dark, dark world…
(lyrics from the song: ‘Simple Death’)

CW_7Grey Days and We Hit A Wall from the albumPain Is Beautypreceded Maw which is one more favourite song from ‘Abyss’. House of Metal’ from ‘Pain is Beauty’ followed and by the end of it, we had already seen half of the show without even realizing it. Next on the set list was the most bizarre song from ‘Abyss’, Simple Death. This was the only song that was performed in the same captivating way in which we can hear it on the album. ‘Simple Death’ somehow manages to elongate the time around it and during the live show, this was the only time that we heard Chelsea Wolfe’s voice as it was expected from the album. The guest musicians that have accompanied Chelsea Wolfe throughout her European tour were: Aurielle CW_6Zeitler (bass) who also provided backing vocals to some songs, Dylan Fujioka (drums) and Ben Chisholm (keyboards and electric guitar, bass). On this show, we missed the sound of the viola which plays a significant role on the sound of ‘Abyss’.

The sound

CW_5It took me a few days after this gig, to finally make up my mind about what was it that made this gig have less of an emotional impact on me than I expected. I was puzzled over, what was the reason for the fact that the atmosphere inside Bush Hall didn’t envelop all of us in a darkness so thick as the title of ‘Abyss’ suggests. This was the first time I was seeing Chelsea Wolfe perform live and I was particularly anxious to see how all these sounds that I hear in ‘Abyss’ were being produced.

…In bed awake with shadow beings
They crawl inside and wait with me
The creatures here become machines…
(lyrics from the song: ‘Iron Moon’)

In the album a remarkable balance has been achieved so that the screeching and delicate vocals can be discernible through the noisy, distorted ‘heavy’ sonic background. Judging from the resulting quality of sound at Bush Hall during this show, I concluded that the sound engineering was not done carefully and seemed not to take into consideration the aforementioned delicate balance between the noisy background of the music and Chelsea Wolfe’s delicate voice. Iron Moon is a typical song of the CW_4sound of the whole album and contains all the challenges a sound engineer might face in the live show. During this gig, the melody in the noisy parts of the song as well as the voice of Chelsea Wolfe ‘disappeared’ completely and even though I was at the very front part of the stage, I had to try hard to hear the voice within the overall blurred sound. In this song I also had the impression that Chelsea Wolfe was ‘holding back’ on what concerned her singing. In the album, the voice goes to extremes from higher notes to lower ones within seconds, while the voice is loud in both cases. This was not replicated during CW_3the show as Chelsea Wolfe didn’t sing the lower notes as low as in the album and the same goes for the higher notes as well.

The official set list ended with Survive just before Chelsea Wolfe reappeared with the full band for two more songs, Color of Blood and Pale on Pale the only song from the older album ‘A?????????‘. For the last song of her show, Dylan Carlson joined the band on stage and added to the nice closing to this gig.

Instead of an epilogue

Chelsea Wolfe is an imposing singer with a ‘heavy’ stage appearance which matches the aesthetics of her music. She CW_2brings out an austere delicacy and a determination elements that characterize her sound as well. There was not much communication with the audience but this was not something that I noticed until after the gig had finished and it really didn’t matter to me much. If I was to substitute my impression of this gig with an image, it would be the image of an animal breathing heavily! I definitely want to see Chelsea Wolf perform live again with better sound quality as it is a real shame not to be able to appreciate all the heaviness and the distortion of the music together with the delicacy of the vocal tone changes.

CW_1The European and the American ‘Abyss’ tours are now both over but a few days ago Chelsea Wolfe announced some additional dates in March in Chicago and in the meantime she also launched a jewellery line in collaboration with Hvnter Gvtherer which you can find by visiting this link: http://hvntergvtherer.com/cwxhg/.

Until next time we will keep listening to ‘Abyss’ non stop!

 

You can see more photos from this gig herehttp://blaue-rosen.com/chelsea-wolfe_dylan-carlson-live-at-bush-hall-2015/

 

Blaue Rosen box

 

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