The video: The clip for Chelsea Wolfe’s “Mer” — the first single from her recently released Ἀποκάλυψις (Apokalypsis) — is a creeping collection of imagery that could work alongside either Ryan Murphy’s new American Horror Story or The Wicker Man (the British 1973 original, not the Nicholas Cage crapfest). It marries shadowy interior shots — Wolfe covered head-to-toe in black lace, blindfolded men crying blood under a baroque chandelier, candles flickering in candelabras made of twisted branches — to scenes from a cult-like beach ceremony where a coven of sexy Puritan-dressed women throw coins into a fire. Though shot in color, the video feels like a dimly lit black-and-white production. And we haven’t even mentioned the snake yet.
The director: Zev Deans’ highly theatrical aesthetic is a good match for Wolfe’s gothy one. An artist, designer and custom eyewear creator, Deans has previously directed videos for Brooklyn black metal experimentalists Liturgy (a trippy kaleidoscope clip for “Returner“), Geneva Jacuzzi (an opulent, Ariel Pink-starring, Salome-inspired clip for “Bad Moods“) and activist-pranksters the Yes Men. He’s certainly proven that he has a flair for the dramatic.
The song: “Mer” gallops along on feverish tribal rhythms, but it is its minor-key melody that gives the song its creepy, unsettling core. Wolfe’s eerie, ethereal voice is drenched in doomy reverb while bent notes punctuate the tune at odd intervals, which adds to its off-kilter mystery.
Of the recent spate of young witchy-woman artists — Zola Jesus, Grimes, Glasser, Creep, even to some extent, Lykke Li — Wolfe is perhaps the most convincingly haunting. From the whited-out eyes on the cover of her sophomore album, to its terrifying assault of an opening track, she wallows in her darkest impulses, covering her prettiest vocals in layers of grime and eschewing comfortable melodic resolutions. Like the best horror movie director, Wolfe is a master of creating tension in her music, but even her most chilling moments or alienating, noisy production choices feel romantic because she is so enamored of the darkness she conjures.
Ἀποκάλυψις is out now on Pendu Sound Recordings. Wolfe is playing a CMJ show October 19 in Brooklyn, NY (tickets here).