The name “16 Psyche” conjures up images of a dusty bar, replete with spirits and spectres. But it’s an asteroid — the 16th one to ever be discovered, in fact — named after the goddess of the soul in Greek mythology. Recently, the celestial 16 Psyche has been in the headlines because of an impending mission in the 2020s to go explore the asteroid, which also bears the curious distinction of being the first scientists will visit that’s made almost entirely of metal.
The gothic-folk songwriter Chelsea Wolfe — whose last album, Abyss, held traces of metal, but who has yet to fully delve into it — is also now fully entrenched in the metal universe on her dissonant new single, “16 Psyche.” It’s the first from her forthcoming album, Hiss Spun. Behind thrumming distortion and Ben Chisholm’s throaty bass lines, Wolfe seethes: “I’ve spent, in different beds / Many moons / And that’s the way I prefer it.”
Wolfe’s and Troy Van Leeuwen’s guitars then launch into a dual hypnagogic roar as she lays herself bare: “She said, I’d save you, but I can’t…” The instrumental throttle cuts for a moment of stillness, and Wolfe’s voice goes up an octave as she finishes the sentence: “Hide.” Wolfe has always possessed a talent for dynamic songwriting, particularly concerning the theater of the soul. But the masterful “16 Psyche” is a full-on ride, and one that finds her at her most commanding and climactic yet.
The impetus for Hiss Spun stemmed from a reckoning with family history, personal life and other elements that have long shadowed Wolfe, and the resulting escapist music also functions as a kind of exorcism, an expunging of the soul. But what “16 Psyche” especially goes to show is that despite what’s going on in our own worlds and the one at large, the discovery of new ones — whether they’re made of fire or ice or even metal — is a worthy pursuit, and certainly one worth fighting for.