In teasing her forthcoming LP Abyss (out Aug. 7) these last three months, singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe is slowly mantling one of the fall’s most intriguing releases — and one that’s an apt follow-up to her 2013 breakout, Pain Is Beauty.
She continues to entrance with the release of “Grey Days,” premiering exclusively on Billboard.com.
As with her fourth full-length’s previous releases — “Iron Moon,” “Carrion Flowers” and “After the Fall” — “Grey Days” utilizes its droning, gothic production to dissect the nocturnal mind’s innermost cavities. Constructed around a looping drum kick and haunting viola by longtime Wolfe collaborators Dylan Fujioka and Ezra Buchla, the track doesn’t bear the same pronounced aggression as the California-based musician’s other fare. More a sorrowful lullaby built on industrialized distortions and wispy, howling vocals, it’s just as captivating.
“For this album I was interested in the subconscious, or unconscious mind, approaching it like a warehouse full of memories and emotions to be confronted,” Wolfe tells Billboard. “The title [‘Grey Days’] came from a conversation with someone I met on the road who had been in prison. He called that time his ‘grey days.’ It’s about something holding you back.”
The song’s verses describe a prisoner of oneself, a cell held shut by an internal weight — or as Wolfe says, a darkness. “In the song, [what’s holding you back is] represented very internally,” she says. “[It was] inspired by the Hayao Miyazaki film, Princess Mononoke, where darkness is represented by an iron ball as a sort of demon that ruins you from the inside out.”
“How many years have I been sleeping?/ How many hours did I throw away?” Wolfe sings. “Why does everything feel so unnamed?/ The poison inside helps me along.”
Rather than answer these lamentations, “Grey Days” succumbs to the addict’s dilemma, choosing to feel nothing as a means of getting by. “Like the morphine, you take it all away/ Pretend it’s ok.”
“I’m drawn to the peace in feeling nothing, but I’m also afraid of feeling nothing,” Wolfe says of this dark dichotomy. It’s one seen throughout her body of work. “The song is a battle.”