The aptly-named noise pioneers Wolf Eyes began in 1998 under the guise of instrument creator Nate Young, who was a former member of several different noise projects in Michigan's underground music scene. Garnering former guitarist bandmate Aaron Dilloway in 1999 and drummer John Olson in 2000, Wolf Eyes steadily became the leading noise purveyor of their day, and there is no better evidence of this than their fifth major release, 2004's Burned Mind, released on Sub Pop Records (famed for being headed by the originators of noise themselves, Sonic Youth). Burned Mind is arguably their defining release to date and may very well be remembered as a noise classic.
Proving they are not just apt at naming their own outfit, Burned Mind is exactly what you'd expect from its title, and all its songs have as fitting names as they could possibly be given. For example, the lead-off track, "Dead in a Boat", starts off just as silent-but-deadly as you would expect it to, with small dripping/creaking sounds in the far background drawing up thoughts of industrial noise masters Throbbing Gristle just before leading into an electric screech and then utter sonic cacaphony, a crescendoing machinistic-yet-human scream drowning in it all. Just as it reaches its apex, "Stabbed in the Face" does, again, exactly what you think it does: it creates the musical equivalent of stabbing you in the face. A harsh bass slam counters itself with a penetrating high frequency before a wall of wailing electronic death washes over you, Young rasping dissonantly over it all as Olson defiantly smacks something again and again in no particular beat.
And that's the introduction to Burned Mind and the band itself, an unrelenting feeling of musical terror. Before I had listened to this I thought I had listened to some creepy stuff-- I used to sleep to Fantomas' Delirium Cordia (it's not that scary... or good) and people used to complain about it. I knew people who thought their underground black metal atmospherists were the creepiest sound-creators ever. I can safely say though that I won't be sleeping to this. This isn't the soundtrack to a scary movie where all the creepy cards are layed on the table. This is the soundtrack to a nightmare, some freakish sort of technologically desperate nightmare. Many people wouldn't even call this music, though I heavily disagree... there are sounds and patterns here, they're just covered in a dirt most people don't want to dig through. To those objectors I say that music includes things you do want to hear and things you don't want to hear; while many people may not want to hear this, it is surely compositional enough to be considered as such.
And excellent tracks such as "Village Oblivia" and "Rattle Snake Shake" further that point; as gritty and nerve-wracking as they are, there are underlying melodic sequences underneath them. "Rattle Snake Shake" houses some of the most interesting bass droning I've heard in a while and a fantastic sense of atmosphere throughout. It sounds like an air raid siren from Hell atop, well... a ratlesnake, I guess. Don't blame me, that's what it sounds like. When "Ancient Delay", "Black Vomit" and the title track cut in with their signature sounds, you start thinking these guys should be foley artists for ideas. Someone could name them a completely random horrific phrase and they could craft a soundscape that perfectly matches the idea. That's the mark of good musicians: they can manipulate your brain and not just your ears, and Wolf Eyes definitely does that, as terrifying as it is.
And the last untitled track is almost beyond words. Let's just say the rest are silence and the last is a three and a half manifesto of sound collaging. And of course, it's just as eerie as everything else here, if not worse (better). By the end it all just feels like total mayhem and you feel like your ears and brain weathered a category five hurricane.
Burned Mind is the epitome of a fantastic noise album and there is no way I would give it a low rating simply because it promotes headaches in the easily perturbed. I truly believe this is a high point in the genre and the only reason I wouldn't give it a perfect rating is that there are filler tracks here that just set up other tracks. A useless song is a useless song. With that said, feel free to have a listen to find out whether you love where noise has gone over the past decade or you can't stand this garbage those elitist kids are listening to. I, for one, will gladly listen to this any time I need a good old-fashioned musical piledriving.