The Cinematic Terror of Chelsea Wolfe's Apokalypsis

[caption id="attachment_10281" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Photo courtesy of Chelsea Wolfe. Photo: Charlene Bagcal"][/caption]

It's fitting that haunting California folk singer Chelsea Wolfe lists Swedish director Ingmar Bergman as one of her primary influences. Like the iconic filmmaker, Wolfe eschews the immediate payoff for slow-building, deathly pieces that disturb as much as entertain.

On her second album Apokalypsis, taken from the Greek word for both apocalypse and revelation, Wolfe expands on the eight-track debut of last year's the Grime and the Glow, building creeping, haunting dirges out of guitar squalls and reverb-laced vocals. The breathy phrasings of Kate Bush and singular note-bending of Björk are obvious influences, but Wolfe's guttural cries and primal screams recall the terrifying urgency of John Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band mixed with Black Sabbath's slow, bluesy metal.

Wolfe's upbringing among the sprawling, anonymous woods of northern California was a universe away from the sun-drenched beaches of Los Angeles. At nine, she began recording experimental keyboard covers in her father's home studio, though it was only two years ago when she began recording professionally (tellingly, she covered Norwegian black metal group Burzum on her debut).

Apokalypsis builds on ideas only hinted at in the Grime and the Glow. "Demons" rocks out with fuzzy guitars and a repeated scream of the title that begs to be heard over a horror movie. "Tracks (Tall Bodies)" sounds like Feist as a zombie, taking its time as it builds to a triumphant, funereal finish. "Pale on Pale" blends black metal chords with Wolfe's terrorizing vocals to end the album on an appropriately gloomy note. Wolfe may be a Bergman fan, but those interested may want to look to another filmmaker for a more direct comparison: George Romero. [Stream Apokalypsis at NPR.]