Wolf Eyes Human Animal

[Sub Pop; 2006]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: noise rock, free-form
Others: Hair Police, Dead Machines, Aaron Dilloway, Emil Beaulieau

Two years and millions of cases of Coors Light later, Wolf Eyes return to Sub Pop for another go at making a cohesive studio album. The band's new Sub Pop album, Human Animal, marks many casual fans' first exposure to Mike Connelly's contributions. In a move that prompted many to dub the group Hair Eyes or Wolf Police, the Wolf guys acquired Connelly from his Hair Police death after electronics ace Aaron Dilloway moved to Nepal with his girlfriend.

Connelly spends the duration of the album ensuring that he is part of a triumvirate, not merely ducking under the spastic heroics of Young and Olson. He lends the slow-crawl, horror movie intensity and sense of suspense he exemplified on Hair Police's excellent knife-'em-up Constantly Terrified. His awareness of space and ability to sketch warped aural underworlds complement Olson and Young's face-melting percussive-corroded sonic attacks. As a result, Human Animal has more of the same creative muscle-flexing as Burned Mind, but is a distinctly different animal – one that does not show its teeth immediately.

Whereas Burned Mind would lead you down a darkened path just to hit you in the face with a Louisville Slugger like "Stabbed in the Face," Human Animal chooses to build on the mood and charge at the right time. The disc starts with "A Million Years," which maintains the same stalker-esque pulse of Burned Mind, but the threat seems more real and lingering. It is as if Michael Meyers is in the building, but no one knows where. When Connelly's piercing, tortured scream appears at the end of the corridor and Olson's reed wails to emphasize the confrontation, the mood is set.

"Rationed Riot," the disc's third tune, finds the destruction unit delving in dense atmospherics, while Nate Young rattles off killer beat poetry about sewage rats and generally horrific degradation. It is another tone-setting menace guiding the band through frightening netherworld swamps. The unstable mood seems to be steadily building to some sort of eerie sonic murder.

It is not until the title-track that the band melds their slasher-flick sludge with Burned Mind's sheer brutality. Their subtlety pays off on "Human Animal," and their offensive proves more effective; the "song" is a direct kick to the gut. "Rusted Manage" is a prickly ball-of-hate, complete with lots of hideous screeches and a drum machine pulsation akin to the rapid fire of an M-16. The tune is so devastatingly claustrophobic it feels as if Young is trapped in a studio box with spiders and leeches attacking from all sides. The album ends with a cover of No Fucker's classic "Noise Not Music," a sonic statement from the band. The song melds the Wolf guys' classic B-movie soundscapes with power violence hardcore. Connelly's screams punctuate Olson's manic old man vocals.

"Noise Not Music" is a prime example of the band's aesthetic of "Fuck art, let's have fun." However, it is also a reminder that, although highly advanced from early pioneers like The New Blockaders and Merzbow, the noise "genre" still has quite a ways to go. Human Animal is arguably one of the best sonic statements in the entirety of the "noise" sub-genre, yet it is still not canonized, classic material. As many repeat listens as this album and many others in the vast Wolf Eyes catalog warrant, the band still has not made an album that transcends its niche market or serves as an undeniable classic from the critic's vantage, like Slayer's Reign in Blood. Human Animal is, however, as close to perfect as a noise album can be, and one gets the feeling that the Wolf dudes are going to keep chipping away until they create their Reign in Blood.

1. A Million Years
2. Lake of Roaches
3. Rationed Riot
4. Human Animal
5. Rusted Manage
6. Leper War
7. The Driller
8. Noise not Music

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