Wolf Eyes I Am a Problem: Mind In Pieces

[Third Man; 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: drone, blues, no wave
Others: Excepter, Blues Control, Russian Tsarlag, Angels in America

Finally an album title we all can relate to. You get the nerve, then you get that nerve frayed is what’s afoot. Something ordered crispy and served up cold, wet, and black with a sneertooth grin. Every fray has a strand, every strand’s a potential fuse, and every fuse is at the mercy of errant moisture.

If one were to imagine all the positive and negative hyperbole about Wolf Eyes as two massive tendrils, this album is where they hopelessly tangle. Though, everything sounds like hyperbole when you’re opinionated, and when you notice that, it’s a good place to try and stop. Saying that “Twister Nightfall” is like this and that demo of this and that first-wave industrial offshoot isn’t gonna save you from its Carrie finale-like pull. This record isn’t bogged down by familiar tropes, so much as just strikingly bogged down. As with 2013’s No Answer: Lower Floors, we got a zombie procession so lugubrious it winds up being more like a slow dance at the boneyard. We’ve had some time to get into the groove, but we’re still waiting for the hammer. I say the grooves here are curiously disheveled and just parkinglotstain rotten enough to be the hammer itself.

It’s a different kind of damage. Its focus pulls in and out and never stays still enough for any kind of genre malaise to take hold. Wolf Eyes have never exactly been about subtlety, but it sounds like they are continuing to do exactly what they want to these ears. They are still a brazen proposition, even if your dad happens to like electric guitar (or you are a dad and don’t wanna like electric guitar). What entices me about the new phase is just how campfire transfixable it can be (and to hell with you if you don’t like a campfire). The trancier, wandering sunset loner jams like “Cynthia Vortex” and “Choking Flies” will put you in a state if you let them. It’s a foul brooding state, but there’s something buttery about it anyway. The negative space sort of screams at you, subsequently dummying up like a sack of grain once it’s got your attention. It’s a numb rummage that doesn’t get into it, but hovers around it (noise looks through the plexiglass at blues rock and twitches in hesitation).

Guitarist James Baljo’s stoner riffage might/could be a grounding presence elsewhere, but here these progressions are rendered curiously distant. The killer riffs (and they aren’t half bad — “T.O.D.D.” particularly shines) are left to feed on themselves in a metronomic chamber amidst the other two’s often random kill-this-song emanations. John Olson plays his woodwinds in a searching, free-jazz spirit that blithely lights upon the other elements like agreeable obstacles. Nathan Young vocalizes with purpose and abandon alike. You can hear (and see in a live context) him scrambling to swing on his rock singer pose, only to shrug it off like so much pompous noise. The lyrics, when audible, convey acute, bloodshot exhaustion. There’s an easy dry, flat charm to the way these sounds come together.

Play a game of count the elements and you’ll likely lose here. The mood is the thing, and the more traditional song form never tips it over. “Enemy Ladder” isn’t a great song for its sludge-rock intensity alone, but because it fits in well with the other material (even with those thunderin’ double-bass runs). It doesn’t work in the way the other five songs don’t work. They are stuck, balls to the wall and always losing time. What makes a Wolf Eyes album worthwhile is less the raging skree than their keen application of dark, delectably uncouth fragment. Your head can still wade in this bracken, even if it may not be as tumultuously roiling as it once was.

Links: Wolf Eyes - Third Man

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