Chelsea Wolfe shares two previously unreleased songs from her Birth of Violence sessions

Chelsea Wolfe has dropped two previously unheard tracks, taken from the 2019 recording sessions that brought about her most recent studio album, Birth of Violence.

The first – a haunting, piano-fueled cover of Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song Woodstock – is a masterful demonstration of Wolfe’s gripping vocals and sonic range, though it's the second offering of the pair that displays her six-string skills.

Green Altar, an original that was left on the cutting room floor three years ago, is equally haunting in its opening exchanges, providing an ample supply of soft acoustic guitar strums and wispy lyrics.

After the chime-y strums, some tight arpeggio work – supplanted by a bed of dense piano stabs, booming soundscapes and ethereal vocal harmonies – arrives to neatly carry the track along towards its heart-aching finale.

Of the never-before-heard-original, Wolfe said, “Green Altar is a cherished song that unfortunately didn’t make it onto the album. 

“It’s a love song I wrote after finding out that my dear friends (artist) Bill Crisafi and (designer) Hogan McLaughlin were engaged,” she continued. “I envisioned them getting married in a lush, green outdoor space outside of some majestic castle ruins.”

As for her cover of Woodstock, Wolfe commented, “While preparing for the Birth of Violence tour, I was watching a lot of Joni Mitchell videos. A 1966 Canadian performance that I found of hers ended up inspiring the video for my song Highway.

“One night after working on the live set, Ben (Chisholm) and I were hanging out and I was just letting the Joni videos roll... Woodstock came on and I started singing along. After that I simply asked Ben if he’d be into covering it with me for the tour, and we just went back into the studio and started working it out. 

“The cover came together quite naturally and it was a treat to play on stage every night. Joni is obviously such a big inspiration to this side of my music, so it felt right to pay tribute to her.”

In addition to the two tracks, Wolfe has also announced the release of her official Birth of Violence tour documentary – a 30-minute film that traces the progression of the tour from its beginning right up to its pandemic-induced postponement.

Captured by photographer/director Bobby Cochran, the documentary explores the show, the stage, behind-the-scenes moments, and the development of the album.

“It’s not my natural inclination to want cameras around when I’m in my head or doing vocal warmups before a show, or when I’m with friends or family backstage,” began Wolfe, “but Bobby asked, and in the spirit of pushing myself to document that era of my musical life, I welcomed him along. 

“Then, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I had to fly home from the European acoustic tour before I got to play a single show of it, I was so grateful that he had this footage and was putting it together. 

“I wanted to share this documentary for that reason as well, for those who had tickets to cancelled shows (I love you!), and as a sort of wave goodbye to the time I spent focused on Birth of Violence, as I’m now making plans for and in the headspace of the next new album.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.