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Wolf Eyes - Human Animal

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 20 / 8 / 2006

Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
Label: Select Label
Format: CD


Scabrous industrial electro rock from abrasive Michigan three-piece Wolf Eyes, which proves to be possibly their strongest release yet

Wolf Eyes’ ceaseless attack on the world continues. Fans of the abrasive Michigan three-piece (and what an interesting bunch Wolf Eyes fans must be) have had a perpetual embarrassment of riches to look forward to, with their straightforward album releases being embellished by countless CD-R’s, cassette-only releases, live documents, endless side-projects (John Olsen’s Dead Machines, Mike Connolly’s Hair Police), collaborations with outfits such as Smegma, Purient, and Black Dice, and God knows what other spin-offs that the band seem to eject from their endless web of creativity. From their self-titled LP back in the late 1990’s through to 'Dread', the atmospheric 'Fuck Pete Larsen' (whoever Mr Larsen may be), and the scalding Sub Pop-breakthrough 'Burned Mind' (which features such charmingly titled ditties as ‘Stabbed In The Face’, ‘Urine Burn’, and ‘Black Vomit’), the band’s sound has evolved at the same time as their rise as inspired cheerleaders of the ‘noise’ and ‘improv’ scenes, not to mention beena huge influence on outfits such as Yellow Swans and the aforementioned Prurient. They’re a mean live act, to boot, whose dynamic adoption of jazz and metal motifs have stopped their sound lapsing into formula or cliché. Happily, this prolific hub of activity hasn’t affected 'Human Animal' either, which is many ways is their strongest release yet. The album opener, ‘A Million Years’, begins with what sounds like murky recordings of slamming doors, elevator shafts, and general echoing ghostly industrial factory dissonance somewhere in the distance. It’s as if Wolf Eyes have chose to go one further than Throbbing Gristle and really capture the decaying sound of factories and industrial wasteland; bizarrely, it even recalls the ghostly warehouse noises that soundtrack Joy Division’s 'Unknown Pleasures', the track recalling that album’s echoing, evocative Martin Hannett production, with its near silent humming of lifts and distant glass breaking. You know that this is Wolf Eyes, however, when Nate Young’s voice suddenly emits a horrific, distorted scream, while John Olsen kicks ten shades of shit out of his saxophone. ‘Lake of Roaches’ and ‘Rationed Rot’, meanwhile, continue the layers of distant industrial noises, while short-wave radio static and general dissonance appears sporadically over the recording. Young’s voice can then be heard mumbling some indecipherable mutterings about "blinded light" and "smells of stains"; the sound of wind rustling in the trees adds to the feeling of something nasty and gothic. Those black crows on the front of 'Burned Mind' suddenly seem apposite when describing music this intense and metallic, a soundtrack to urban decay and hellish nightmares, yet this opening suite of tracks is subdued and moody rather than aggressive, with the band refraining from ‘rocking out’ – not that you’re likely to hear any Jo Satriani-esque guitar solos when they do. The brutality finally kicks in with the title track and it’s follower, ‘Rusted Mange’, in which the slow, paced build-up of the first three tracks – described by Olsen as “a different style of pacing, like a Western…you know the horrible stuff is coming, and it’s creepier to know it’s coming later…you need a long intro to the creature and sound” – finally explodes into pummelling electronics and screaming, the man-machine android possibilities of Tetsou: The Iron Body Man fully realised. After that, ‘The Leper’ returns the opening-suites mood, with the feeling of industrial wasteland and urban dread spreading like a fog, atmospheric rather than all-out howling noise, underpinned by what sounds like either a distant storm, amplified breathing or a cauldron of malfunctioning machinery (it’s always difficult to locate exactly where WE get their sounds). The soundtrack to 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer', 'Requiem for a Dream,' or 'Driller Killer', Wolf Eyess' raison d'être finally reaches its logical conclusion with the final track, 'Noise Not Music'. Opting out of any conventional musical idioms altogether, the track is simply an anarchic barrage of pummelling white noise, with endless screaming, feedback and grinding of instruments, an inferno so brutal and beyond the realm of anything that it seems impossible if Wolf Eyes can ever hope to top it in the future. Lou Reed’s 'Metal Machine Music' condensed into two and a half minutes, but at a thunderous pace, it’s an exhilarating, white-knuckle ride, an apogee of everything that the band are about and a culmination of their aesthetic – and a perfect way to end the album. After such a curtain closer, you have to wonder what the band could do next. No matter – 'Human Animal' is their strongest album to date, and one that should cement their reputation for years to come. Never ever listening, Wp;f Eyes’ music is nonetheless strangely compelling and cathartic; it’s as if the most ugly in nature can have it’s own internal beauty.

Track Listing:-
1 A Million Years
2 Lake Of Roaches
3 Rationed Rot
4 Human Animal
5 Rusted Mange
6 Leper War
7 The Driller
8 Noise Not Music

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