Burned Mind, Wolf Eyes' Sub Pop (and "major" label) debut,
pricked a lot of people's ears. The band was dubbed messiahs of noise, and
while the audience for such stuff has been growing, there hasn't been some
sort of mass noise takeover... and there is good reason for that. Where other
artists in the genre place noise over noise, barrage over barrage, Wolf Eyes
arrange; where others build, they compose. Their "songs" have movement,
flow and drama. If noise music is an aesthetic opposite/equal to classical
music, Wolf Eyes would have to be some violent, repulsive Romantics.
Ugliness, as an aural quality, is just as vast, complicated and communicable
as beauty. While that isn't to say that ugliness has been ignored by the
avant-garde, it also has rarely been exploited in its fullest context.
As far as music goes, Wolf Eyes create some of the most diseased
sound out there. It is, by some standards, barely music at all. Melody and
harmony are not of any particular concern. Rhythm is a puppet-king,
subservient to a congress of sound, which rules by force and under a very
real threat of violence. This music is pure physicality.
Human Animal (a Sub Pop follow-up to Burned Mind, some 10-15
albums later), splits Wolf Eyes' past neatly in two the "we are
going to hurt you" Wolf Eyes and the "we are hurting you now" Wolf
Eyes while also moving that past forward. As Wolf Eyes have progressed, a certain cinematic quality has been lost to a will to dominate. Instead of threatening to tear your head apart, they tried to do it.
They became enthralled with brutality, discontented with mere creepiness,
with "darkness" as a shade. They made music that actually pained the
listener: screw psychology, it's just a construct of your weak mind.
While this is impressive, and makes Burned Mind one of the most
viscerally memorable albums one would care to recall, it is also a rather
limited artistic goal. So, for Human Animal, Wolf Eyes have stepped back
from pure violence, bringing in some of the old cinematic features while
retaining pieces of the vicious nature that has served them well. "A
Million Years" opens up the album with deadened bass hits, mutilated
saxophone and clanging, echoing, scraping metals, setting a scene before
some truly awful peak of screaming and layered nastiness, again to descend into
"Lake of Roaches," which acts as some sort of aural afterbirth, all searing
white noise, pained yelps and synth burbles. I can't help but think of
being buried alive, having that lid nailed shut, fearfully screaming for
help and slowly suffocating.
Not all of Human Animal is so specific ("Rationed Rot" is eight minutes of
creeping dread, a setup for what's to come), and not all of it is so purely
atmospheric. The title track is shattered beats, squalling sine waves and
vocal vomit, with nice breakdowns and gong-hits cutting it up before the
whole thing really starts cooking on "Rusted Mange," where the tempo doubles
and starts to resemble an army taking practice at a rollercoaster full of
howling children. Something like that anyway. "Leper War" is a six-minute
respite from the beating for some atmospheric skin crawling. "The Driller"
comes closest to combining the atmospheric and the brutal, with a
signals-and-synths intro allowing a death-march beat to slowly coalesce
before vocals and saxes and general metallic mayhem ensue. For Wolf Eyes,
it's almost a pop song. A few lyrics escape the din, and the thing's got a
sort-of verse/chorus construction going on.
The album ends with a two-minute cover of the No Fuckers' "Noise
Not Music," which actually sounds like it could have been made by a
guitar-bass-drums trio, or maybe several of them, but the sound has been
overloaded to the point of actual collapse, with only the shouted title and
some screaming not reduced to a rhythmic soup. As a piece of music, it's
not much, but as a finish to the album, it is a peak, allowing Human Animal
the rise-fall-rise compositional structure that makes for the most dramatic