With her new album Pain is Beauty, Chelsea Wolfe self-imposed the weighty task of rewriting the ending to the George Orwell’s classic 1984. Though many would beg to differ, Wolfe believed the book could stand to end on a more positive note.
“I reread 1984 and I was unhappy with it,” Wolfe told Radio.com. “I wrote a more idealistic ending to the book because I have a more idealistic outlook on life.”
Due to her darker sound, which can best be described as beautiful black metal, Wolfe has been pegged as a rather gloomy singer. But she says people, mainly critics, have gotten her all wrong. ”There’s two sides to me: I’m very much reality based and also really idealistic,” she explained. “I like to think that there’s a fight out there and we have to fight for the one that we love.”
On her fourth record in three years, Wolfe tried to put more of herself into her writing, and for the first time she used lines that came from her own life. On the rather depressing folk ballad “They’ll Clap When You’re Gone” Wolfe talks of “blackened seeds,” a nod to a poem she wrote at the age of 8.
“It’s about feeling like an alien for a lot of years and being a loner and the feeling of not always being understood,” Wolfe said of the poem. “But I guess it’s a cathartic song. Not completely personal, but it’s like a sad song about dying and death and maybe getting a new lease on life.”
Wolfe has taken steps to feel more a part of the crowd, starting by revealing her face to her fans. Due to crippling stage fright, Wolfe, until very recently, used to wear a veil while performing. The Pain is Beauty album cover is actually the first of hers to display her face fully. “I was trying to be a little more brave,” she explained.
The look of this album — the vintage red dress, the pin curl waves — is also a first for Wolfe, who changes her appearance for every record. On this album, she wanted to explore the intensity of nature, namely the effect natural disasters have on everything around them, including humans. The dress is emblematic of lava, while the song “The Waves Have Come” was inspired by a documentary which featured first hand testimonials from those who survived the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan.
“There were subtitles to know what they’re saying, but looking at their faces and seeing the loss, it struck me,” she said. “Imagining what it was like to see someone that you love get taken away. To lose your home and livelihood in that way, it’s such an intense way for it to go.”
When talking about the album though she used the example of a forest fire. She explained that on one hand it is a harsh and terrible thing that damages everything in its path, but on the other it acts as a cleansing process that helps disperse seeds and bring new life to the forest. The album’s lead track, “Feral Love,” filled with harpsichord and a machine gun round of drums, touches on this sentiment of finding something good in a world full of devastation.
“I just thought of the reflection of that in our own life,” Wolfe explained. “Inevitably life is really beautiful and it’s really hard and that process is like the fire because it allows us to start over if we fight. We can become stronger and have a more beautiful perspective on life.”