Pain is Beauty
is Chelsea Wolfe’s strongest album yet. Its rockers drip blood, like the doom-paced “We Hit a Wall.” The ballads, like the epic “The Waves Have Come,” have a real yearning underneath their elegant presentation. And it is full of surprises, like the stuttering electo-pop of “The Warden” and lo-fi girl groupisms of “Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter.” Yet for all its twists, Pain is Beauty
hangs together gorgeously. The vampiric imagery of her album covers and photos now seems more than a bid to grab your attention—you can’t imagine this music without the gothic scenery it invokes. For all its danceteria crossover appeal, “The Warden” is still remarkably in line with the rest of Wolfe’s work, its shimmering acoustic guitar adding an old-world touch as it matches the synthesized beat, while the song heaves in and out of major and minor key like a swaying ship. Despite its title, “House of Metal” doesn’t touch on her black metal influence; rather, it has an English dubstep grounding, while the synths and Wolfe’s hollowed-out vocal create tension befitting a horror film, only eased by the song’s luscious string-work. Still, it’s the aforementioned “The Waves Have Come” that seals the deal, eight-and-a-half glorious minutes that grow from a simple, piano-based lament to amphitheater-sized opera. Pain is Beauty
balances these centerpieces with the kind of quieter, delicate moments she featured on last year’s Unknown Rooms
album, closing the album with the short but chill-inducing “Lone.” By the end of Pain is Beauty
, you may feel as though your experiences have intertwined with Wolfe’s; the pain she conjures through these songs seeps through, and it would be impossible not to feel moved.