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Give In To Live Michael Dix , November 16th, 2010 05:32

Now, there’s a moral message here about judging books by their covers, but the three extra letters in Seattle trio Wildildlife’s name (it’s pronounced “Wildlife”) almost stopped me from listening to their new disc: I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but with a literally unlimited amount of new music available at the click of a button, a corny band name or bad cover art is as good a reason as any to deny an album valuable space in my iTunes library. Lucky, then, that the band have a reputation as impressive as their awesome sleeve designs.

Their 2007 debut Six prompted much excited critical chatter about a "metal Animal Collective"; a meandering mix of doomy psych, tribal freak-outs and lengthy ambient passages played out with an air of malevolent mischief that owed as much to the Butthole Surfers as it did to sludge-masters like Black Sabbath. On follow-up Give In To Live, Andy Crane (bass, vocals), Matthew Rogers (guitar, vocals) and Willy Nilz (drums) still occupy the twilight zone between spaced-out stoner rock and metal, but the sound is more streamlined and all the better for it.

With Royal Trux/ RTX legend Jennifer Herrema on board as producer, those in the know could be forgiven for expecting something even more unhinged on this sophomore effort, so it comes as quite a surprise to find the band here toning down the weirdness and playing it comparatively straight. Whilst not even the most broad-minded listener could mistake any of Give In’s eight tracks for “pop”, the album contains a whole bunch of riffs that could rot teeth at twenty paces.

Opener 'Fuck That' sounds like ZZ Top and Torche jamming over a shared morphine drip, and could surely be a radio smash in a more liberal parallel universe; 'Sour Mirage' takes Southern boogie guitars and a motorik groove and drops them into a wind tunnel, while Herrema’s influence is obvious in the title track’s strutting glam-rock. There are hooks here that could show up the likes of Josh Homme for the try-hard fame-whore he is, and Wildildlife just keep knocking them out like it ain’t no big deal.

Thankfully the group haven’t completely abandoned their more experimental side. There are elements of freak-folk (the brief acoustic dirge 'Sometimes') and even free-jazz ('I Want You Gone'’s squalling Fun House sax), but it’s the back end of the album where Wildildlife really shine with a three song run that allows them to set the controls for the heart of the sun, then stretch out and enjoy the trip. 'Stormbringer' (which first appeared last year on the band’s side of a split single with Harvey Milk) is an immense lumbering beast of a song, all twisting bass riffs and soaring lead lines; 'Shiv' is eight minutes of slow-motion chugging guitars, skyscraping vocals and blissed-out guitar shimmer, and 'Permanent Vacation' closes the album locked into a synth-assisted, robotic Krautrock groove.

In a year when the likes of Harvey Milk, Kvelertak, Daughters, Kylesa, The Body, Nachtmystium, Shining, Christian Mistress and Black Tusk have covered just about every imaginable corner of the metal map, the variety of tempos and textures on offer make Give In To Live one of this year's go-to heavy albums. If you’ve enjoyed any of the above, don’t let the stupid name put you off; you owe it to yourself to give this fan(tan)tastic record a listen.

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