Better Than... staring into the Nietzschean abyss.
Chelsea Wolfe embraces darkness, seems to live by it, even. "Dark" is the best way to describe last year's Apokalypsis, an album that won accolades for melding black metal and American roots music, among other things.
Bathed mostly in only the dimmest crimson stage light, Wolfe's candlelight presence was appropriately gothic. After laying out the requisite cultish ephemera (animal bones, withered roses), she, her keyboardist and her violinist took to the stage wordlessly, diving into the waltzing "Appalachia." Wolfe strummed as the violin swelled and receded, with "Appalachia" never quite offering up the resolution it hints at.
The set list, drawing mainly from Unknown Rooms, suggested Wolfe was eager to stretch her more folk-tinged songwriting, demonstrating that her sound and aesthetic owe as much to the barren guitar work of John Fahey as to say, Darkthrone.
Between songs, she was reserved, shy even, speaking only to thank the audience and ask for dimmer lighting. Always dimmer. But while singing, she was another thing entirely: austere, wide-eyed and confident. "Boyfriend," a song equally indicative of Wolfe's new direction, bloomed when she stepped back from the mic to sing out, allowing her considerable voice to reverberate through the hall.
One of the performance's more haunting moments found Wolfe alone at the church's house piano, punching out "Sunstorm," a disquieting and frenetic elegy to a deceased companion. "I had a strange dream. It was my birthday. I learned about it from my neighbor," she sang, head low, her hair brushing the keys.