Head here to submit your own review of this album.

Some albums introduce themselves, and the sonic world they inhabit, gradually, unfolding like the opening of a play or film, offering sweeping views of what to expect over the next hour. Other records take a more direct approach, dropping listeners right into a world of exciting, tantalising riffs and melodies. And then there are records like Abyss, where listeners aren't so much dropped into a sonic world as bludgeoned within an inch of their life and left reeling for the next 56 minutes. It's a stunning, thrilling record and one that becomes more and more rewarding with each subsequent listen.

Abyss is the fifth album from gothic singer/songwriter Chelsea Wolfe and wastes no time in marking itself out as Wolfe's darkest, heaviest record to date with an opening that is perhaps the most immediate introduction to a Wolfe album yet. 'Carrion Flowers' is a cataclysm of huge, pounding percussion and deep, fuzzy guitars, the combined force of which is like tectonic plates grinding together. The verse's slow, steady pace is interrupted by an explosive chorus, bringing a sudden, but momentary change of tempo. It's almost the only variation you'll hear on the track, which instead opts for a monotonic instrumental, which recalls the equally thrilling opening to The Body's 2014 record I Shall Die Here.

In fact, doom metal is a good reference point for Wolfe's latest record as it leans more on thunderous, sludgy guitars than previous albums, with the first two tracks taking this to the album's very limits of noise. 'Iron Moon' in particular opens with grumbling, detuned guitar chords so heavy and thick that they almost solidify in the air around you. It makes for breathtaking backing as Wolfe's voice soars from under this thick cloud of noise during the chorus. 'Iron Moon' isn't just about presenting a wall of noise though, it is as much about the quiet passages as it is the loud ones. The track juxtaposes the guttural sound of the chorus with beautiful arpeggiated guitar riffs, offering a surprising lightness to the track. Wolfe's voice at this point drops the distorted call of the chorus for a hushed, whispered vocal that glides across the backing.

Throughout Abyss Wolfe seems to want to unseat the listener, with sudden movements that, whether loud or quiet, are such a shock they make you sit bolt upright. Wolfe, who suffers from sleep paralysis, has stated that the intent behind the albums is to "to have the feeling of when you're dreaming, and you briefly wake up." It's jarring and disorientating, but that's largely the point. 'Iron Moon' balances the loud and quiet, so you can't tell if it's a metal track interrupted by melodious balladry, or the other way around. Meanwhile further in the record the lo-fi production of 'Crazy Love', which sees Wolfe's vocals drenched in reverb over a heavily clipped acoustic guitar, is positioned next to the cleaner, more complex 'Simple Death', which pairs an electric organ with electronic beats and ominous, rumbling bass notes. Both offer interesting structural changes with 'Crazy Love' introducing strings, manipulated at points to sound like air-raid sirens and at others offering violent stabs. 'Simple Death' is far more subtle, introducing new elements gradually to eventually include choral vocals and a quiet, keening guitar melody amidst haunting electronics.

Electronic instrumentation is used across the record to great effect, often providing a counterpoint to the doom-laden guitar and bass that make the core of the album's sonic template. They're used to great effect in 'After The Fall', one of the album's stand-out moments. It opens with a looped vocal from Wolfe, divorced from any context, before introducing heavily manipulated drums. Throughout the track supposedly traditional instruments, like piano, vocals and percussion are looped and manipulated to take on new forms - like shadowy figures half-glimpsed out of the corner of your eye. At one point a piano is stretched into soaring ambient swell, whilst Wolfe's vocals are looped and double-tracked as though there is another singer performing a duet with her. Then, in the song's most shocking moment the build into what should be a lumbering rock riff diverts to a quick-tempo electro-pulse - a momentary detour before that expected riff arrives.

Vocally Wolfe remains as impressive as ever, with Abyss showing off her range more than any of her previous records. However, whilst there is a certain thrill to Wolfe letting loose with powerful wails, as in 'Iron Moon', where Wolfe really excels is in the quieter moments, when her voice takes on a more haunting quality. Both 'Maw' and 'After The Fall' exemplify this, with the former offering a whispered, introductory refrain from Wolfe asking "where are you?" 'Maw' is one of those beautifully disquieting tracks that just grabs a hold of you and refuses to let go. It also sets itself apart by by the first track on the record to lean less heavily on loudness - sure it does features some satisfyingly fuzzy guitars at moments but 'Maw' is more about the interplay between clean guitar riffs and soft atmospheric vocals and the slow build of energy. 'Maw' is one of Abyss' more contemplative moments, and is all the more affecting for it. The music and lyrics communicate a sense of being lost, searching for something that perhaps may never arrive.

The cover of Abyss depicts Wolfe falling into an eternal darkness, a striking image that sees the singer almost entirely lost to the background, only her face, arms and feet are clearly visible. In some respects this reflects the album, with Wolfe's voice fading into the background during the record's louder, more physical moments. Whilst not exactly a criticism - when a record gets as loud as this does, something has to give in order for us to make sense of it as listeners - it's reassuring that Wolfe is able to balance the loud and quiet, the heavy and light with ease.

Ultimately, Abyss is like a nightmare. It consumes you, shows you a darkness you'd tried to keep away from, but in the cold of night, wide awake and heart-pumping you can't deny you enjoy the thrill of it.

This is the place you'll find reviews from 405 Readers. To join in, head here.