Ready To Pounce
What an album cover Hiss Spun has. A perfect balance of unsettlingly predatory feminine imagery is pitted against such a clinically white backdrop. Wolfe stakes her claim both here, and in the first clawing seconds of “Spun.” Such dissonant guitar stomps coupled with stadium drums would have one expect Nathan Explosion to enter in and pig squeal away his anger. But, instead, here we have a willowy reverberating female voice. Metal and its influenced genres are still obviously rebellious in their own way, but it’s been a long time since Marylin Manson had shame cast down on him for corrupting the youth of America. Witchy pagan sounding metal influences, however? That’s something that hasn’t been seen that much in the past. Somewhere in the fog of all that reverb and crunch lies a nugget of innovation; dark magic has a lot of potential for aesthetic growth in today’s hyper aesthetically driven music scene — especially female magic. If only Hiss Spun was able to elaborate on this thesis with even more ideas on top of its fascinating premise.
For example, the overall feel of “16 Psyche,” especially that rotted guitar riff that lingers through the whole song, deserves a high concept video with all the effects and makeup to go along with it. The video that comes to mind, however, would ultimately end up getting more attention than the music itself, because for all the raw power that emanates off the record, it is surprisingly subdued at the same time. It feels like sacrilege to say that about an album with songs like “Vex” and “Particle Flux,” whose almost percussive guitar fuzz gives the listener a most exquisite bed of lo-fi luxury to relax in during the time of perfectly produced EDM. In that regard, Hiss Spun provides power in embracing the imperfect. But, by the end of “Static Hum,” it becomes clear that that “16 Psyche” riff doesn’t have a lot of friends to play with. The similarity of the energy makes that relaxing in that aforementioned bed give way to restlessness.
A lot of that probably has to do with not being able to see what Chelsea Wolfe has to offer live. The sudden crescendo of “Twin Fawn” is undoubtedly a spine-tingling experience. Without that aspect, the hunger for new colors other than black becomes clear, and ultimately rewarded with the drum sound of “Offering.” It almost sounds like a drum track, and the borderline beachy guitars to go along with it finally gives a new unique vibe to the spooky funeral dirges.
All of this is not to say that Hiss Spun is lacking in energy. The pulsing rage is loud and clear all throughout each and every song that sounds very professional, in part due to the legitimacy of the recording process. Wolfe recorded this album in Salem, Massachusetts with appearances by Troy Van Leeuen of Queens of the Stone Age, and “Vex” is graced by Isis’s Aaron Turner’s vocals. But remember that amazing album cover? This unidentified female ready to pounce at any moment and unleash her hidden powers? The whole album sort of feels like a build up to a climax that doesn’t quite get there. Because a lot of the climaxes that do show up on Hiss Spun have already been heard in many a metal album in the past. Wolfe’s striking imagery suggests the beginning germs of a movement beginning in a foreign background. But it’s time to freak those foreign strangers out with some newfound powers.