WOLF EYES with Gastric Female Reflex and Awesome at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Sunday (May 22). $10-$12. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
If you've heard Wolf Eyes on record, images of a medieval torture chamber where innocents are disembowelled, burned and mounted on metal spikes may come to mind.
In the flesh, the band's astringent, skull-scraping live shows only reinforce that Monsters of Rock D&D image.
"I enjoy what I do," says lead Wolf Nathan Young, hanging out in a dim hallway after a recent show in Vancouver.
"I try to make the gnarliest thing I can possibly handle. I do get a cheap thrill out of seeing people jump a little."
Performances feature distorted screams that will make your soul shudder, shards of slashing feedback that'll make your ears bleed and thumps of static that sucker punch you in the gut and leave you writhing on the floor.
Wolf Eyes are heavier than hardcore, darker than the darkest metal and more extreme than a pumped-up Nuno Bettencourt parachuting out of a helicopter with a snowboard strapped to his feet.
Yet Young is also a surprisingly chilled cat. He's soft-spoken and has a disarming "hey, dood" presence that belies his band's tuff-as-rusty-nails sonic approach.
"It's not all about freaking myself out," he explains. "When you make this kind of music, you really are just making whatever comes to your mind. You don't plan it out. And a lot of it just starts out when you're in the studio by yourself, really lonely-style and not so intense."
Still, Young does admit a fascination with the dark side.
During our interview, he's even wearing a T-shirt from Mayhem, kings of Norway's black metal scene. Earlier that evening, Young "played" a metallic, mace-like instrument that resembled something Henry VIII might have plied in his torture dungeon. Other highlights included rattling chains and some Bronze Age cymbal-bashing.
Says Young, "Yeah, but that's just so, like, nice-sounding. I've watched so many horror movies - I'm totally interested in ambient, fucked-up horror movies. Whatever that means. I'm interested in horrible, horrible horror."
"Our shit is BC," says noise merchant/horn blower John Olson, wearing a pair of leather half-gloves. "Like fuckin' stones and grabbin' chicks and pulling them by their hair and shit."
"We're not into the male domination thing," he quickly clarifies. "We're into being ourselves."
Young, who hails from the Detroit area, started Wolf Eyes as a one-man studio jam in 1996. Since then, he and a few chosen collaborators have embarked on a scorched earth policy. They've toured like demons, put out upwards of 300 home-sliced records and kicked up a whole lotta love from media types who've crowned Wolf Eyes kings of the new noise underground.
Compared to the pretty-boy ponce and high-image gloss that's dominating the indie game right now, Wolf Eyes are a blast of refreshing noise.
Last year, mega indie label Sub Pop unleashed Burned Mind, some of the band's most electric, extreme shit to date. "We just did our thing," says Olson of the Sub Pop deal. "Sweatin' labels is like me asking [band member] Mike Connelly, 'Hey, how'd that Ford get ya to that gig?' It's a car. We got there. People don't need to worry about it. We'd put out a record on Taco Bell Records if we could hook it up. It's just a label. We handle our fuckin' business on the street."
Strangely, the band recently headlined the hiphop stage at California's Coachella Valley Music Festival. "We were hanging out with MIA backstage," says Young. "She opened for us."
Shortly after the Vancouver date, Wolf Eyes were jetting off for some shows in Brazil.
"We have our own lathe cutter, and Nate cuts records constantly," continues Olson. "It's more like Nate's art and a jam that you'll never hear again. Each one of those is totally unique."