Chelsea Wolfe at the Regency Ballroom, by Scott Russell
Chelsea Wolfe (photo: Scott Russell)

Los Angeles-based artist Chelsea Wolfe has operated as a fringe metal act for years now, draping her gothic folk influences in a dark but less visceral heaviness. With the release of her latest LP Abyss, the influences have become the spectacle. On Saturday night at the Regency in San Francisco, Wolfe brought the industrial and doom influences of Abyss to life — bathing the set in a blood red coloring and tasteful Nine Inch Nails-esque strobe use.

Selecting primarily from Abyss, highlights included the pulsing, distorted Portishead-meets-Reznor bass of “Carrion Flowers“; the cinematic strings of “House of Metal“; and the ghostly, almost danceable climax of “After the Fall“. The band sounded perfect, a near exact replica of the recorded versions of the songs which is impressive given the precision of the production and the doom influences — we’ve all seen doom sets destroyed by an over-reliance on bass. But on Saturday night, Wolfe easily captured the full spectrum of her recordings and made the Regency sound like I’ve never heard before.

Coming on the heels of Future Islands‘ headlining set at the Fox Theater on Friday night, it is worthwhile to compare the two acts as they both rely upon a cinematic sense of emotion. While Future Islands push a conception of worth that is centered around the emotion of relationships, Wolfe turns even further inwards to the sentiment of nightmares, trauma and a loss of self. It’s a haunting combination of quiet reflection and complete doom.