Somewhere in between recording last year’s somber acoustic fever dream Unknown Rooms and her as-yet-untitled foray into electronics scheduled for later this year, Chelsea Wolfe scraped together the Prayer for the Unborn EP for Southern Records’ Latitudes imprint. While nominally a set of Rudimentary Peni covers, the offerings here aren’t so much folksy reworkings of British death rock as they are wholly new creations germinated from RP’s stunted seed.
The songs’ base elements are radically transformed, such that Wolfe’s take on a track like “Echo” is rendered unrecognizable from the original. Its brash, gloomy abrasion gives way to something infinitely more sinister and seductive, something akin to the stark, punk-ravaged Americana of Nick Cave’s early Bad Seeds output. The song’s pendulous, percussion-less rhythm could soundtrack a small-town hanging. Similarly, “Dissolution/Rehearsal for Mortality,” with its hypnotically cycling guitar figure and resolute avoidance of catharsis bears a striking resemblance to the Blixa Bargeld- and Anita Lane-penned “Stranger Than Kindness.” The more clamorous offerings are every bit as satisfying as well, with Wolfe indulging her black metal leanings on the title track and playing more straight-faced goth rock on the “Black on Gold/Sickening for Something” medley.
At barely more than 10 minutes, A Prayer for the Unborn is a brisk but surprisingly meaty set. In that brief expanse of time, Wolfe distills many of the most enticing features of Apokalypsis while sinking her roots still deeper into folk’s blood-drenched soil. The early chatter about the electronic textures of her forthcoming album suggests the possibility that this EP will serve as an epitaph to this phase of Wolfe’s career. If so, there are worse things to have written on your tombstone.