Deeply atmospheric, Unknown Rooms is a timeless, placeless album floats from speakers as if straight from a log cabin in the Ozarks, drums at their most acoustic and underwater strings underpinning a voice seemingly taking inspiration directly from the soul, having never been in touch with ‘the real world’, as if the Brontë sisters were still lost on their moor with an overprotective father, singing to themselves. In reality, this isn’t quite the case. It’s third album time for death-obsessed Chelsea Wolfe; her first two efforts The Grime And The Glow and Apokalypsis backed by a full, but not traditional band.
Coming across as a haunted PJ Harvey, her gripping doom-rock is laden with despairing screams that take a long time to fade from the mind. In Unknown Rooms this is all stripped back to the barest bones, appearing innocent but at the same time all too knowing. The naming of ‘Appalachia’ showing us that she’s exactly aware of the genre she’s chasing. ‘I Died With You’ is a spooky 32 second nursery rhyme recalling the voices of Coco Rosie at their most childlike. ‘Boyfriend’ contains a brooding ’70s horror movie soundtrack synth that hooks you in despite seeming incongrous. In fact, as unusual as it seems to have hooks in an album as sparse as this, they’re in heavy supply: ‘Sunstorm’ as quirky and insanely catchy as anything by Merrill Garbus, the repetition of “I remember everything you said” hanging around eerily in the imagination after the album has finished.
At twenty-four minutes boredom isn’t an issue, some songs being seen through to a suitable denoument, others snatched away after barely a mouthful, the listener reaching up to grab and bringing their hand back empty, as if they had tried to catch a cloud.