LIVE: Chelsea Wolfe / True Widow / King Woman @ The Haunt, Brighton

By Glen Bushell

Few artists have amassed a cult following in recent years quite like Chelsea Wolfe. While still inherently underground, Wolfe has become an icon of sorts, with her bleak sound drawing attention from fans and peers alike. Now, on the final tour in support of the stunning 2015 album, ‘Abyss’, Wolfe wraps up the UK leg of the tour at The Haunt in Brighton, with one eye looking towards the future.

Making their UK debut tonight, King Woman are up first the as the doors have barely had a chance to open, but that doesn’t stop an early crowd from showing up. With only 20 minutes to ply their trade, they fill every minute with four crushing and ethereal tracks. Vocalist Kristina Esfandiari’s haunting chants glide across low-end doom-driven riffs, bringing to life their latest album, ‘Created In The Image Of Suffering’. It’s over all too quick, but for the brief time they are here, King Woman make Brighton their own.

True Widow are another band with a die-hard, yet cult group of fans, leading to them being a huge draw on this tour. While not as suffocating in delivery as King Woman, they possess a hypnotic tendency that leaves you transfixed. Relying on bass-heavy repetition, the trio are tight and methodical as they play a set pulled largely from their 2016 album, ‘Avvolgere’. Peerless, and in a category of their own somewhere between post-punk and doom rock, ‘Back Shredder’ and ‘Theurgist’ lurch from the stage. Given the adoration they receive from the audience, anyone would think they were tonight’s headliners.

Of course, after a brief respite, the reason The Haunt is packed to the rafters arrives. Launching into a blistering version of ‘Feral Love’, Chelsea Wolfe proves straight away why she is one of the most unique artists around. Bolstered by Ben Chisholm switching between powerful synths and driving bass rhythms, the set begins in a beautifully caustic way, bleeding into the monolithic ‘Carrion Flowers’. However, something seems amiss at the start, and a visibly frustrated Wolfe leaves the stage after pedal board issues.

At first, it almost seems like Wolfe doesn’t want to continue, and apologises for her guitar sound. Yet bizarrely, it works in her favour, and from ‘We Hit A Wall’ onwards, it becomes a more aggressive Chelsea Wolfe set. Channelling the negative energy into walls of distorted guitars and pounding, heavy handed drumming, ‘After The Fall’ and ‘Iron Moon’ are sonically punishing. Where the sound issues let tonight down is that it hinders the band from performing two new tracks, but the one that is aired, ‘Static Hum’, provides an exciting glimpse into the crystal ball.

Wolfe’s unmistakable vocal is ever present over the hail of white noise coming from the band, with ‘Pale On Pale’ and ‘Survive’ cutting deep into your soul, feeling the emotion of every word. No matter how often you hear these tracks or see them live, it is impossible not to be moved. Ending with a double hit of ‘House Of Metal’ and ‘Moses’, it brings the set – which was almost doomed – to a harrowing finale. While it may have been end of one album cycle, a new one will begin shortly and Wolfe will continue to reign supreme.