ince their 2004 Sub Pop debut, Burned Mind, Wolf Eyes have dropped close to twenty limited releases. Scattered across (what are regarded by some as) near redundant formats, these are time capsules from a band that love what they do. So while this might be their second LP for that label, it shouldn’t be viewed as their big sophomore release. Wolf Eyes don’t write/record/release in any sort of linear fashion; their discography can slam from style to style as they wreck their way through a hundred different musical avenues. The majors, and even the majority of the larger independents, seem so entrenched in their traditional business format that they’re simply not equipped to be able to take advantage of this sort of guerrilla movement. Sub Pop have landed themselves another Bleach.
If a comparison must be made with their debut, then Human Animal comes off as a less directly brutal assault than its predecessor. It sounds a hell of a lot better cranked to ten, though, its contours more explicit, the sounds sharpened to a steely point. That it sounds different shouldn’t be a surprising: Effectively, this is a different band from the one that made Burned Mind with Hair Police’s Mike Connelly having replaced Dilloway in early 2005. Instead of bringing a stronger noise/thrash aesthetic, he’s added more of the flavor of his Failing Lights project. Human Animal lets more of this burnt cabling and choked throat gunk seep into the Wolf Eyes mix.
The title track is a strong representation of this, being a six-foot deep genre descent into shattered grieving. The production coughs up an interesting bassily intoned vocal sound, probably skinned from some basement field recording, showing again their talent at the smaller pieces of musical construction. Young’s smashed face lyricism is forced up against a veneer of a rhythm, a musical travelogue about being beat into a grunting pulp.
The devolved gabba grumble of “Rusted Mange” makes absolutely no concessions to rhythm or tempo either. The broken breakcore punctures the song’s underbelly spilling musical garbage like leaking organ bags. This sort of humans-in-distress audio is also brought into being on “Leper War”s apprehension drenched atmosphere. John Olson’s ululating jackal reeds are fed through one of the band’s homemade monstrosity boxes, making an ailing honking gurgle.
Lead single “Driller” sees them twisting keyboards into an unusually futuristic Vangelis-as-tramp world and trapping them in a sewer till they drip solder. The nauseous intercourse of rhythm and melody on this track turns from sexual terrorist glam to cancerous purple pimp-juice; it’s commercial in an utterly bizarre way. The cocky rot of the mid tempo arrangement (yeah, arranged) seeps metal, the mordant black screeching leaning forward in its black logo’d t-shirt.
The killing field finale, “We Make Noise not Music,” is likely to be the most talked about cut here; a cover of No Fucker’s never heard seven-inch thrust. This is more visceral and less traditionally hardcore (as in genre) than the live version they seared crowds with as part of their recent UK tour encores. Here it sounds less sweat-sodden, having mutated through processing into a broken boned well bottom shriek; more metallic noise than noisy metal. The live Olson/Young dual mic trade off, and the bellowing two front rows, made it much more of a people’s anthem than this closing cut-up and jigsawed corpse battering.
Despite the sometimes incongruity of their harsh center and comedy zombie song titles, the mainstream are going to need to co-opt this band before they roll out of control. These guys might have been contained by the underground’s inverse snobbery a few years back, but their appeal has become contagious. They aren’t just selling records, they’re changing the way people see music. They might not be the first to do what they do, but they’re riding the biggest wave yet. Eyes and minds are being opened, and branches of influence are bypassing both the latest and stalest canonical updates. These “touching base” releases through Sub Pop are like warning shots, with their independent releases acting more like dual shotguns with jars of nails over the barrels. An ever-growing community is mushrooming from noise’s rotting roots—and Wolf Eyes are handing out invites in the shape of Human Animal.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2006-09-27