Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under Vol II (Album Review)

Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under Vol II (Album Review)

Former Delain frontwoman Charlotte Wessels first introduced us to her Tales From Six Feet Under roughly one year ago, in September 2021. Happily trampling through genre while evoking maximum feels, Vol I was an enchanting sonnet for the soul that proudly introduced Wessels as a solo artist. On Vol II—which arrived on October 7, 2022, thanks to Napalm Records—the lyric soprano flirts with bold risks, digging deeper into her craft.

Wessels is a woman who should need little introduction. Departing from Dutch Symphonic Metal masters Delain amid the band’s February 2021 shake-up, amid lockdowns and the uncertainty of the global pandemic, the singer-songwriter had time on her side. With endless hours suddenly available, the artist channeled her energy into creation: writing, performing, and producing from her home studio. With her dedicated Patreon community to fill the seats, there was ample opportunity to delve into new facets of her eclectic musical personality.

Her success is quite obvious on Tales From Six Feet Under Vol I, where Wessels (wo)mans all of the instrumentation, programming, and, of course, vocals. This is also the case with Vol II—aside from the feature contributions of former Delain bandmate Timo Somers (guitar) as well as longtime collaborator Elianne Anemaat (cello)—which picks up where its multifaceted predecessor left off. So, where Vol I introduced us to Wessels’ artful storytelling and joyful embrace of genre-fluidity, Vol II dives further, partaking of orgiastic inspiration that is, at times, both compelling and confounding.

In many aspects, Tales From Six Feet Under Vol II is Wessels’ feminist manifesto put to music. Initially, we see her bearing witness to the plight of women in the aptly-titled “Venus Rising.” Not long after, one of her finest offerings, also one of the most Metal-leaning tracks of the collection, “The Phantom Touch,” echoes the sentiments of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. A Victorian Gothic novella fraught with symbolism, it might take a bibliophile to hear the connection between Wessels’ words and Gilman’s masterpiece, but it’s there. Step beyond the mesmerizing sonic drive that leads into the track, peel away the raw edges of her vocals, and you will find yet another reminder of Wessels’ love for literature and gender studies. 

But our siren is careful not to dull her record down by forcing agendas. The path is there if you wish to follow, if not, she is fully open to tackling additional topics; particularly the personal. On tracks like the gritty “Human To Ruin” or “Against All Odds,” a story of starting over, she allows us a window into the issues that she faces outside of the studio.

Similar to this open-heart lyrical approach, musically speaking, Vol II holds nothing back. Here, Wessels explores everything from dark, sultry Rock-n-Roll (“A Million Lives”) to folksy ballads (“Against All Odds,” “I Forget”). She toys with ASMR on “Toxic” before howling like a wolf, takes it even further with “Good Dog,” and then ends it all with the ethereal atmospherics of “Utopia.” And yet, it is this brazen lack of sonic inhibitions that is the double-edged sword of the collection. At times lacking in cohesion, the album is a testament to the freneticism of passion.

But these moments are never without redemptive qualities. Like “The Final Roadtrip,” which opens with an intriguing musical interlude. Unfortunately, its composition overpowers Wessels’ lyrics, detracting from her poetic message. “Good Dog,” too, is not all bad, though its harmonic canine calls and cliché metaphors come across as a little silly. There are, too, moments where the vocals get a bit fuzzy (“A Million Lives”) or the musical narrative feels underwhelming in comparison to the vocal performance.

To its credit, Vol II also has moments that overshadow these misses. “Toxic,” initially fueled by ASMR whispers, explodes, bearing its fangs against the patriarchal system that repeatedly legislates women’s rights to their own bodies. With Wessels embodying both the ferocity of Alissa White-Gluz and the fairy lilt of Florence Welch within one track, it’s a showstopper, a shocker, and an exceptional example of a woman who is now able to fully grasp the reins of her own career. 

Call it experimentation or finding one’s own footing as a solo artist, but the genre-bending and wild shifts that encompass Vol II are worth celebrating even when they fail to ignite our own passions. Because Wessels, as a multi-talented creator, is willing to catapult herself beyond the box to discover whatever is necessary to shape every song as its own singular entity. In this, Tales From Six Feet Under Vol II needs to be digested over time, each of its awkward angles and seemingly unorthodox choices carefully considered. It is, much like the aforementioned Gilman novella, an intricate system of layers that speaks volumes about its author and the times in which she lives. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Wessels’ latest 4 out of 5 stars.

 

 

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Jeannie Blue
[email protected]

Jeannie likes to joke that she is little, yellow, blue, and different. She seemingly popped out of her mother's womb with a pen in her hand and has been writing ever since. Many moons ago - in what feels like a separate lifetime - Jean was co-editor of an online music magazine that afforded her great opportunities to interview and photograph some of her favorite bands/musicians: Tommy Lee, Good Charlotte, Warrant, Bring Me The Horizon, My Chemical Romance, Sevendust, New Found Glory, Deftones, Poison, VH-1 "Band On the Run" Flickerstick, an endless list of unsigned locals, and so many others. These days, she can usually be found hiking aimlessly through the woods in her favorite Technicolor sneakers with a Nikon in hand and her rescue dog, Molly, who is a bit hare-brained.

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