Wolf Eyes remains one of the most prominent groups in the noise scene of the 2000s with Burned Mind, their first full-length for Sub Pop. Being on a bigger label means more opportunity for listeners to have their ears and brains reformatted by the trio's alternately suffocating and spare electronic-based works, and they make the most of it: Burned Mind upholds Wolf Eyes' reputation for making truly unnerving music. Building on the harsh, wintry blasts of Dread and, especially, Dead Hills, the album is also Wolf Eyes' most cleanly recorded work yet. That's not to say that Burned Mind isn't very, very heavy on the noise; it's just that the negative space around the band's onslaughts is carved away more clearly (which they take to an extreme by burying one of the album's eeriest pieces behind three blank tracks). Wolf Eyes' mastery of dead calm as well as brutal sounds underscore that noise music can and should be as much about texture and restraint as it is about volume. Throughout Burned Mind, the band strikes an uneasy balance between eerie, atmospheric interludes and full-fledged pieces. "Dead in a Boat" begins the album with slowly building, ice-burned tones that sound like static overshadowing distant screams, setting the stage for "Stabbed in the Face," which was released as a single earlier in 2004. Nate Young's possessed howls are even more enmeshed with the buzzsaw electronics surrounding him, and the track's relentlessly, well, stabbing bass brings Wolf Eyes' industrial and dub influences to the fore. The wonderfully named "Village Oblivia" and "Rattlesnake Shake" -- which, with its aptly rattling bursts of percussion and odd, whistling drones, achieves a terrifying almost-beauty -- are both strong pieces, but Burned Mind's most cohesive moments arrive at the end of the album. The final three tracks feel like movements of a larger piece: "Burned Mind"'s searing, high-pitched tones give way to the zombie-like pace of "Ancient Delay"'s bass pulses, which attain a tribal, hypnotic feel on "Black Vomit" before the album's final noise climax is unleashed. Burned Mind isn't just Wolf Eyes' most cohesive album yet, it's also their most accessible (well, as accessible as music this intentionally unsettling can be), which makes it equally satisfying for those just discovering the band and those already converted by Wolf Eyes' fascinatingly ugly sounds.
Burned Mind Review
by Heather Phares