Live Review: Wolf Eyes took the Metro Gallery faithful to swamp-noise church

Upon taking the stage at the Metro Gallery on Wednesday night, the three members of Wolf Eyes seemed mismatched, as if each had been drafted from a separate sphere of entertainment. Wielding a microphone and harmonica and tending to an electronics array, Nate Young could have subbed as a "Sons of Anarchy" extra; a lot of facial stubble, the leather jacket, a certain confidence. To his right, John Olson was attired to resemble an apocalyptic harrier from a 1980s sci-fi movie set in the future, with the glowing belt doubling as a musical weapon; a case of wind instruments resting behind him on a stand. To the far left, the relatively casual Jim Baljo wore a guitar and a bucket hat.

What ensued between these three was like a complex, off-the-cuff game of hacky sack. Young intoned a series of lyrics into his microphone, then looped and chopped them as a deep, bass boom emerged, seemingly from nowhere. Olson produced a piccolo to peel off spine-tingling arias, as Young laid into his harmonica and Baljo chipped in with spectral slide guitar.

A porridge-thick storm evolved in ways that seemed both gradual and sudden, rendering play-by-play extraneous as it became largely impossible (and foolhardy) to connect visible activity to the infinitesimal, elephantine wash and the swamp of squawks, groans, feedback, voice, and guitar therein. Why take notes when you could shut your eyes tight, allowing Wolf Eyes to slowly and purposefully tase your frontal cortex with bolts of lightning? All around lolled the heads and torsos of other concertgoers, enraptured by a raging, ritualistic roar that shook the venue and was a struggle to shrug off hours after it had come to a close.

The three opening acts added distinct, complementary musical flavors to the evening.

You would be forgiven for comparing Lent, the most interesting of the night's three openers, to the late Cambridge, Massachusetts, outfit Morphine. Why? A saxophonist acts as the focal point, with a keyboard player, a drummer, and a guitarist stirring a mighty din around him. The comparisons end there, as combo jazz is not really what this quartet is after. Its trio of improvisations showcased a pensive, bionic pow (cf. Battles), an atonal soundscape evolving into towering, new-age funk, and a further ranging piece heavy on aquatic effects and Eastern tonalities.

It's difficult to go wrong genuflecting at the altars of Touch and Go Records and Amphetamine Reptile, a lesson that Baltimore foursome Baklavaa clearly take to heart. While the first moments of the band's set suggested that metal was its metier, a noisy art-rock shove soon dominated: adventurous, fluidly dynamic, effect pedals searing the air. Would it be sacrilege to describe Baklavaa as "a much more exciting Shellac"?

The opener, Baltimore's Dream Junk, evades easy categorization. The fledgling duo—a hard-hitting drummer and a ferocious MC manipulating a miniature electronics rig—straddled a thin line between consistent rhythm and utter chaos. Snatches of traditional hip-hop bounce often gave way, on a dime, to chopped bursts of voice and beat reminiscent of the Bomb Squad; every sound arrived bathed in a disorienting echo, with frequent, insistent looping in play.

Copyright © 2019, Baltimore City Paper, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Privacy Policy