Tight to the Nail Review: Chelsea Wolfe’s -Prayer For The Unborn (Latitudes session)


I think, by now, if you’re not listening to Chelsea Wolfe then all I can say is that you need to rectify that immediately and then come back and thank me.

The LA based singer/songwriter is currently on a roll of epic proportions; with 2 LP’s released  since 2010 (including 2011’s absolutely stunning Apokalypsis) an acoustic collection of unreleased songs and a live LP from her performance at Roadburn this year she shows no slowing down with this collection of tracks due to be released by Southern Records as part of their on-going Latitudes sessions series. Her seamless mix of folk, doom, drone and ethereal pop with a sprinkling of occult devilishness has seen her lauded with much critical acclaim and appealing to a hugely diverse audience. Put it this way, I was introduced to Chelsea Wolfe by way of a Holy Terror Mixtape; nestled alongside the cathartic aggression of Integrity, Rot In Hell and Gehenna but sounding perfectly at home.

By far my most anticipated of these Latitudes sessions since we started covering them (click here for both so far), the promise of anything that Chelsea Wolfe has put her name to is usually cause for great excitement, and this is no different. Rather than present new material or revisit her existing work, Wolfe has instead chosen to record 5 cover songs by 80’s UK anarcho-punk band Rudimentary Peni to make up this release. Far from just an arbitrary choice, this selection of songs link in with that bands own history with Southern Records and have even been recorded in the same studio with the same engineer (!) who worked with Rudimentary Peni on the original recordings. And for a set of 5 covers that could easily feel thrown together, it’s incredible just how cohesive this all feels; creating, as Wolfe so easily does, an all consuming atmosphere; a tangible force through music.

Wolfe doesn’t so much cover Rudimentary Peni as completely reinterpret and reinvent; the original tracks mostly used merely as a starting point from which Wolfe rebuilds from the ground up, seemingly effortlessly imbuing these old, snarling grotty punk songs with her whispy, menacing folk sound. I think it’s fair to say that if you didn’t know these were all covers of 80’s punk burps, you’d have no idea whatsoever.

‘A Handful Of Dust’ is reduced from its straight ahead, breakneck punk threat (“I will show you fear / In a handful of dust”) all buzzing guitars and jagged vocals into a soft and drifting dream-like daze, guitars playing a tune only reminiscent of the original and Wolfe dealing out the lyrics in a chill staccato, like droplets of water hitting a icy pool. ‘Black on Gold + Sickening For Something’ is straight up staggering, as she finds completely hidden layers within what were originally brief and borderline incomprehensible rants. The musical shifts are incredible but easy to spot; it’s what Wolfe manages to do with Nick Blinko’s original lyrics that is the star of the show. Kept totally the same, they are transformed into a far more menacing and transporting collection of words with her vocal chords in control. Originally, the lyrics to ‘Black on Gold’ were buried deep under Blinko’s gurgling growl; here, Wolfe allows them to breathe and flow, the babbling stream of words, colours and materials (“Black on gold / green to feel blue / gawd those colors / opium madness unleashed! Supreme final ecstasy”) take on new form and become something ethereal and magical.

Excelling on both levels; as a fascinating look at punk through the dusty lens of occult folk and as another addition to Wolfe’s peerless body of wok, this record is a total success. Approaching the often moribund art of the cover song and delivering something utterly unique and unrecognisable. Wether you’re a Peni fan, a Chelsea Wolfe fan, or unfamiliar with either; I can’t recommend this enough.

Available to pre-order on vinyl and CD from Southern Records now, due for release on 30th November.