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Pray for Chelsea
L.A.-based singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe has already made waves in the alternative rock ocean with her atmospheric goth-metal folk tunes. Her last project, Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, allowed her to transmit her spooky style through a gentle, nonelectric platform. This vehicle softened Wolfe just enough to reach the low end of accessibility. Those songs were even slightly pretty. But Prayer for the Unborn, her latest, descends from another planet of weird. Only ten minutes long, the album consists mostly of creepy covers of Rudimentary Peni songs, a British deathrock/hardcore band from the ‘80s. Sound strange? It is.
The concept alone does not kill the album. Wolfe’s covers have been completely reworked so that the new versions hardly resemble the originals. That’s not such a bad quality. But a record should not need context to be good. No matter whether they are cover songs or original tracks, good music will simply sound good. It will immediately connect with us. Prayer for the Unborn alienates listeners, rather than drawing them in. “Echo” oozes out of some corner of darkness. Repetitive and monotonous, Wolfe never takes the song anywhere. Moreover, the track only features guitar and vocals—indiscernible vocals, in fact, that would sound at home at your boss’s Halloween party. Without instrumental layers or understandable lyrics, how should audiences interpret the message? What will bring them back to this record?
Niche genres, some will argue, are perfectly respectable forms of art. Yes, Wolfe’s music is droning and unmelodic, but many fans still welcome her style. But an objective analysis of her latest project finds it weak, monotonous, and simply uninspired. People have been making Halloween party soundtracks for years. Chelsea Wolfe just inserted female vocals onto some hardcore songs and called the product Prayer for the Unborn.