A vicious return to form
Every group or artist goes through changes. It’s this constant evolution that often leads to aggressive debates over whether or not an artist has sold out, evolved or simply lost touch with the magic that carried their earlier successes. After Chelsea Wolfe’s Birth of Violence stunned audiences with a new, more restrained direction, those debates immediately began to surround Wolfe and Jess Gowrie. Fans were wondering if the Hiss Spun era of Wolfe was over, and had given way to a cleaner, less aggressive project. Much to the enjoyment of those concerned fans, Mrs. Piss was formed almost immediately. Mrs. Piss sees Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie reunite for the first time since the Hiss Spun tour. The resulting record from the former band mates is urgent, ferocious and stunning.
While Birth of Violence was slow and soothing, and Hiss Spun was heavy and plodding, Mrs. Piss’s Self-Surgery is more akin to the sludge metal of the deep south. The sounds of bands like Thou and Melvins reverberate violently through this searing album. Distorted guitars turn thrashy tracks like “To Crawl Inside” and “M.B.O.T.W.O.” into unsetting anthems and sludgy muck. In addition to the distorted guitars, the welcome re-introduction of screams on “Mrs.Piss,” “Downer Surrounded by Uppers” and “You Took Everything” embellish the songs with an emotional intensity that few groups could hope to match.
The emotional honesty of Wolfe’s excellent lyrics furthers the impact of Self-Surgery. Unlike many modern metal groups, the lyrics on this project are easy to understand and serve as far more than just a textural element. Lyrical highlights include the vitriolic second verse on “Mrs. Piss” which states “Said Don’t you fuckin look at me/ This bitch is not your problem/ Said I’m a pistol, baby, a pistol when I’m loaded/ I see you tryin’ to keep control/ I see you tryin’ to tame me/ Didn’t your mother ever teach you, pig/ You’re never gonna take it from me.” Another highlight is the despairing “Nobody Wants to Party with Us” where Wolfe shouts, “There’s not enough rain in this city/ To wash away the piss/ Nobody wants to party with us/ So I drink myself sober.”
Ultimately, the record only lets down in a single arena, length. Many of the songs are very short, with the longest track “Knelt” clocking in at just over four minutes, while no other track crosses the three-minute threshold. Though the songs do a solid job of exploring their ideas well, this sound could have been entertaining for far more than just 18 minutes. This might’ve been a deliberate decision to leave the audience wanting more rather than tiring out this sound completely. At the end of the day, it’s hard to say that Self-Surgery and the Mrs. Piss experiment have been anything but a resounding success.