We live in some incredibly strange and dark times circa 2015. With so much going on in the world, nothing could have particularly prepared the music community – and the world – for what happened recently in the Paris atrocities, especially at La Bataclan. So much so, that many international touring musicians and artists were cancelling or postponing their shows because of recent events, or just to be close to their loved ones. However, in a rare act of resilience, courage, and even valiantly battling the woes of bronchitis in the midst of her tour, Chelsea Wolfe seemingly will not back down.
For a lot of people here, this is the first show that they’ve attended following on from recent events, which have united the music community together more so than ever before. This feeling of community will soon become apparent and made all the more moving by the nature of the show.
Tonight’s show is taking place at the incredibly beautiful Islington Assembly Hall. The venue itself holds an incredible warmth and nostalgic charm in due part to keeping the design and the layout exactly as it was back in the 1930s. It also has some rather amazing acoustics that are absolutely perfect for the nature of tonight’s form of music – adding further depth and warmth to the overall projected sound.
First up are New Zealand based experimental duo A Dead Forest Index, who are playing their last show on their current tour run with Chelsea Wolfe. Their music bases itself in the ‘less is more’ part of the spectrum – focussing on minimalism and musical experimentation. Be it leaning towards freeform jazz drumming, to reverb-soaked shoegaze vocals and even at times hints of six-stringed post-punk gloom; it’s clear that these guys are advocates of exciting musical depth and substance. To which the audience gives them enough applause and credit to warrant them to hopefully come back sooner rather than later. It is hard to provide an idea who A Dead Forest Index draw comparisons to because of their unique musical nature, but saying that some of the best things in life need no explanation – let their actions speak louder than the words itself. A great yet steadily-paced start to the evening.
As A Dead Forest Index finish, you can visibly see everyone in the audience taking the time to talk to one another during the changeover; strangers talking to strangers about how much their music community means to them and how recent events have made them even more determined to appreciate what they have. It is a truly incredible thing to witness. The entire crowd turns their collective love and energy towards a certain enrapturing yet dark beauty that enters the stage – Chelsea Wolfe.
However, with the recent knowledge that poor Chelsea Wolfe has been suffering from bronchitis (and having to, unfortunately, cancel a couple of shows in mainland Europe), there was a little bit of a concerning apprehension for her vocals. Alas, they were soaring.
Starting the set with a scathingly dynamic ‘Carrion Flowers‘, it was clear from the get-go that Chelsea Wolfe and her band, of incredibly talented musicians, were going to make this a show that was not to be forgotten anytime soon. Her voice sounding as haunting and hypnotic as it has ever sounded, and the band just as tight and menacing, they threaten to border along the musical lines and depths of beauty and darkness.
The set leans heavily from her recent critically applauded (and easily one of the albums of the year) release Abyss, as well as mixtures of songs from Pain Is Beauty and Apokalypsis. In the live environment, her most recent material sounds just as destructive and gloriously spine-chilling as it does on record. Songs such as ‘Dragged Out‘, a chilling version of ‘After The Fall’ and the nihilistic ‘Survive’ all sound like they are the anthems for the end of days. However, there is a slight sing-a-long from the crowd during a doomier than usual rendition of the excellent ‘Iron Moon’ – quite possibly the standout song on Abyss.
Older live favourites are also played tonight such as the wonderful ‘We Hit A Wall’, ‘Kings’, and ‘House Of Metal’, but surprisingly there is no sign of ‘Feral Love’. This is a good thing because it gives more emphasis on other material that deserves to be heard. Once the band return for an encore after a destructive end to their first part of the set, they return to play ‘Color of Blood’ and then launching into a breathtaking climax with ‘Pale On Pale’ – which threatens to sonically tear the roof of the hall itself with its overwhelming musical spell.
What made this particular show special was not only the prevailing of a recently ill Chelsea Wolfe or the recent events in Paris, but the performance being somewhat akin to a funeral wake rather than a place to mourn and reflect upon the recent tragic events to our music community. The nature of Chelsea Wolfe’s music is in part dark, beautiful, evocative, haunting and soothing. How it translated tonight was that she was an unknowing form of healing to those in attendance who were recently in mourning. This concert was something to bring people out of that darkness and project that hurt into a cathartic release where everyone clearly felt the sense of elation when they left the building.
However, this should not overshadow the performance by any means. Chelsea Wolfe is one of the most incredible female artists in recent years whose voice and aura are something to truly behold. Tonight she overcame the odds with her most incredible band that outshone themselves in the face of adversity; her band deserve the utmost of our respect and time. This special performance for so many reasons. Hopefully, Chelsea can only take flight on to higher planes where her celestial voice can be heard by a greater audience. Stunning, beautiful, and superb.