After an unexpected dalliance with Jack White's Third Man Records, Michigan's Wolf Eyes (the official kings of trip metal) kicked off their Lower Floor Music imprint with their 2017 full-length Undertow. Their previous effort, 2015's I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces, featured a few songs with pounding drums and blazing guitars which suggested the group's take on droning psychedelic rock. Undertow is much less rhythmic, with the guitars and drums seeming less forceful, but it's still hypnotic and otherworldly enough to function as some sort of mutated psychedelia. These compositions are leaner and generally less noisy than the blown-out assaults Wolf Eyes have been associated with in the past, instead consisting of slowly swirling horror-scapes comprised of layers of reeds and shorted-out electronics. The rhythms are present, but they're detached and blurry, slowly and uneasily lurching back and forth. "Texas" is the album's most hair-raising cut, alternating sinister flute trills with piercing horn blasts and pulsating electronics, signaling a gruesome attack scene which never quite arrives -- or is repeatedly occurring, yet the audience is just too shocked to be able to process it. "Empty Island" seems to have a bit of a desert blues influence, with wavy, sun-scorched guitars taking the lead. It all culminates in "Thirteen," a lengthy downward spiral spotlighting Nate Young's poetic spoken lyrics about isolation and regret. Initially clear and focused, the words eventually become chopped and jumbled, accompanied by wheezing horns. Eventually the piece becomes significantly trippier, with echo enhancing Young's snarling vocals, and a malfunctioning drum machine tattering away in the background. It's every bit as ugly, uncomfortable, and bothered as one would expect from Wolf Eyes, and it feels like the only logical way such an expression of confusion and paranoia could unravel.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson