As a stand alone statement, "pain is beauty" could be taken in one of two ways. On one hand it sort of sounds like a trite, unsubtle mantra that an Angelina Jolie-wannabe would have tattooed across their bony shoulder blade whilst reading Kafka or Bukowski or something depressing. On the other hand it is an unashamedly romantic assertion that might inspire scorn and ridicule because it's uncomfortably true on some level; you laugh at it as a way of dealing with the harsh reality that most of the beautiful things we encounter have a tragic quintessence - whether it's being hyper aware of the transience of beauty, triumphing over adversity or dying in vain, these are recurring artistic themes that epitomise this statement. It's pretty dramatic and quite overstated. You have to wonder what else is there to say about it without it sounding tired or dare I say, adolescent.

Thankfully, for a release that could essentially have been 'Twilight' in musical form or Evanescence for the cool kids, Pain Is Beauty becomes something quite special in Chelsea Wolfe's capable hands. Peeling back the fine, lacey black veil of noise and drone that has masked her striking face for most of her career, Wolfe embraces the full emotional spectrum that this statement carries by drawing on every aspect of her "doom/metal/art/folk" niche, and using a pronounced electronic element to extract the emotional potential from her material more than ever before. The result is her most self-assured artistic statement to date: 12 songs of sweeping melodrama and morose gothic imagery (flowers, blood, Mother Nature on a bad day, rabid animalism), the brutality of which is conveyed with a majestic and commanding gravitas.

Sounding like a séance on a wintry beach, 'Feral Love' opens the album with an eerie synth-string loop that whirrs towards a hazy horizon. A stuttering electronic drumbeat starts to roll towards the shore until it picks up speed with thundering urgency. Now hurtling towards you, the beat sweeps up wispy incantations ("we press for the water, press for the river, press for the rain") and goth metal lashes along the way, swelling up and circling each other until it all crashes right at your feet. It's a powerful statement piece that sets the tone for the album quite beautifully as it indicates two major things about Pain Is Beauty.

The first is that even if the imagery is still bleak, Wolfe now paints in rich, colourful gouache instead of the smoky, grainy charcoal we are used to. The songs this time around are more full, the arrangements more lush, but all the while they retain scratchings of black throughout.

The second thing is that the album's menace comes not from outright dirge of Apokalypsis or the exposed raw nerves of Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, but from the discomfort that comes with the experience of sublimity; to awe at the power of nature.

It might be a bit of a shock to the system for Wolfe fans that loved her for languishing in the murk, but rest assured that she has used her expanded palette to full effect, painting pictures of dark beauty even more vividly than before. 'The Warden' pulsates like a demented, pseudo-Soviet, re-appropriation of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love'. Wolfe's protagonist coos while being hung, drawn and quartered, kept alive only by the vision of her love, the rubbery beats tapping like Chinese water torture until the chorus lilts upwards like a soul leaving the body, or someone losing consciousness from pain.

'Sick', evokes Dead Can Dance at their most gothic. A sprawling, almost Transylvanian chamber piece, the song lurches somberly, looking like it is going to transform into something very frightening until Wolfe oozes the line, "I'm not the kind of sick that you can fix, don't you worry about me, baby" like it tastes like rose blood (and by God is it chilling and sensual). All of a sudden though, the track turns in on itself and becomes an arpeggio of paranoid krautrock, the type that would have been at home Portishead's Third. The juxtaposition is so odd that it's utterly compelling.

'Reins' has a similar, equally powerful trajectory. Rounding out the album though is the piano-driven epic, 'The Waves Have Come', which plays like an elegy you recite to yourself as you wait for certain death. Sprawling over eight and a half minutes, it's like you're taking in all the beauty surrounding you for one last time. It will absolutely floor you.

Older fans of Wolfe need not despair though as it's not like Wolfe has become too tasteful all of a sudden. 'Destruction Makes The World Burn Brighter' and 'We Hit A Wall' carry the flame of the ethereal wave and unrelentingly doomy rock (respectively) that got her noticed in the first place. 'Kings' is a particularly ferocious black metal war-cry of a song, with its hurtling guitar riff and a drumbeat of a thousand horses racing into battle. There just happens to be quite a lot of variety on here despite the bleakness of it all. But in all honesty, the album's most powerful material lies within the songs that branch out into new, unashamedly grandiose territory and that's what's so encouraging about it.

Indeed, Pain Is Beauty is so dramatic that it verges on being laughably over-theatrical. Even talking about it makes you think that you're Edgar Allen Poe. But thanks to Wolfe's glacial but nimble voice, cleverly off-kilter song arrangements, and an inexplicable X-factor, the ethereality remains paradoxically anchored. If Pain Is Beauty has any drawbacks it's that it can be a pretty draining listen over 12 overly serious songs. But herein lies Wolfe's appeal: her unwavering commitment to her tortured vision. If you don't like it, that is solely on you. This is not for the faint or heart or the emotionally insouciant.

Funnily enough, the title of her previous album (Apokalypsis) is a Greek word that means, "the unveiling". Yet it's on this release that Wolfe actually sheds her veil to reveal just how special an artist she is. Pain Is Beauty is the true revelation in her catalogue: it shows us that pain is beauty because maybe beauty is in fact, pain. And that pain is addictive.