Wolf Eyes: Always Wrong
Hospital Productions (2009)
Every time I listen to Wolf Eyes, scenes from Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre begin flickering through my mind. Vacant desert-scapes; fucked up Hillbillies with rotting teeth; Leatherface slamming a sledgehammer into someone’s head; and that god awful living room filled with bones, chicken feathers and furniture made from left over humans. There are plenty of similarities between the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre soundtrack and Wolf Eyes.
So it’s weird that I keep listening to Wolf Eyes despite these ugly associations, huh? The whole attraction is based on the fun of scaring the crap out of yourself. Just like watching a well-made horror movie.
It’s something the band perfected on their last ‘proper’ album Human Animal, which was haunting, violent, dissonant and oddly beautiful. It captured both sides of Wolf Eyes perfectly – the cinematic vs the ugly noise – and took listeners on a murky journey into terror. Always Wrong doesn’t traverse the same highs and lows but it’s no less compelling. It’s a consistently angry affair that reaches back to the live, analogue mayhem of the band’s earlier releases like Dead Hills.
The tracks within Always Wrong hinge on more traditional, song-like structures than I’ve ever heard Wolf Eyes use before. This might have something to do with the abundance of vocals, which feature on almost every cut. Opening track Cellar starts with a muffled rhythm and gentle buzz before Nate Young starts droning over the top in an undistorted (for the first time?) voice about ‘Walls tied with hellish pigs’ and the like. It builds into clanging metal and bubbling cauldrons, along with live, albeit distorted beyond recognition, instruments crashing into disintegrated tape loops, before phasing out in a wash of hiss and buzz. It’s a thrilling ride.
Cellar is followed by Living Stone, a more atmospheric affair that dabbles with a shredded electric guitar and the band’s standard un-synced dub pulse. De-tuned guitars exist heavily on the album, most noticeably on the absolutely brutal Broken Order which pulses and thrashes like an alligator.
During the last couple of years Wolf Eyes have done some amazing work with avant-saxophonist Anthony Braxton (most noticeably on Human Animal). He returns for two tracks midway through this a record and uses his sax to lay the sound of dying animals over some seriously moody mess. He contributes such a unique element to their sound that Wolf Eyes should him make a permanent member. Can you imagine that shit?
For a band that releases music almost as regularly as Merzbow, I’ve always felt that Wolf Eyes are at their strongest on the ‘major’ releases. The rest of the time they tend to sound way too stoned. As an actual album (opposed to a lathe cut, cdr or cassette release) Always Wrong proves my point. You could argue that it’s not as refined or dynamic as Human Animal, but in its own right Always Wrong is an slab of intense, ear-splitting goodness that continues to place Wolf Eyes slightly to the left of your generic noise act. Take a listen if you dare.