on 3 November 2013
Red Fang are something of an unknown quantity. This may be their third album, but the band take great pleasure in defying expectations, varying their sound from song to song without so much as a by-your-leave, the result being that those in search of an easy fix often find the band frustrating. It is arguable, however, that this potential source of frustration is, in fact, Red Fang's greatest strength. In an age where bands are routinely pigeonholed into a genre and then castigated for staying there, Red Fang break with convention and dip, instead, into the styles and sounds of the many bands that influenced them. This `lucky dip' approach is certainly evident on `Whales and leeches', a fine album that takes in elements of stoner rock, grunge and metal without missing a beat and which marks out Red Fang as a band to pay close attention to in the future.
Opening with jangling strings `DOEN' quickly degenerates into a thunderous blast of post-Mastadon stoner rock, the band blowing the dust form their amplifiers with a selection of humungous riffs that seem to get louder and heavier with each successive section of the song. The dual vocal pays perfect dividends here as the more melodic verse gives way to a high octane chorus that threatens to tear the whole damn roof off as guitars and percussion slam up against Aaron Beam's feral bass guitar. `Blood like cream' is considerably drier, the riffs recalling the sand-blasted soundscapes of vintage QOTSA, suggesting that for all their metallic chops, Red Fang are as familiar with the works of Soundgarden (`superunknown' era), Screaming Trees and QOTSA as they are with the metallic might of Mastadon, Sleep and Kyuss. The song packs a hell of a groove, not to mention the sort of repetitive chorus built to be shouted out in a live environment, and yet just as the band have unleashed their pop hooks, `No hope' comes along and smashes everything to pieces with a malign glee, the band coming on like the Henry Rollins band at their most unhinged, the riffs underpinning the punkish vocals with primitive savagery as John Sherman does his best Animal impression, trashing his kit in the process. `Crows in swine' sees the pace change again, the band dipping their dirty toes into the heady water of psychedelia before once again hitting the stoner trail on the awkwardly timed `voices of the dead', a track that wouldn't sound out of place on Mastadon's last outing.
Stunningly heavy, `behind the light' is stoner rock with a nitro-glycerine core that threatens to detonate on a chorus that slams home with real force. `Down rising' is one of the album's two epics, a brutal, sludge-powered beast that sits close to seven minutes, brooding over what would happen if you placed Buzzo*ven, candlemass and Soundgarden into a room together and forced them to jam at gun point. A doomy monstrosity, it highlights the band's wide tastes and demonstrates that they are more than capable of delivering whatever sounds their endlessly spinning imaginations are capable of conjuring, whilst Mike Scheidt (Yob) adds further vocal venom. `Failure' is a strangely hypnotic track that matches Rollins-esque levels of disgust to a patchouli-scented soundscape that draws as heavily form the Doors as it does from modern metal. `1516' blazes with a primal intensity that owes much to the furious American punk scene spearheaded by Black flag, although the spirit of Mastadon never lies far away. `This animal' is exactly as its title would have you imagine, primitive and violent in the vein of Nick Oliveri-led QOTSA tracks, and then the album closes with its second lengthy jam, the five-minute `every little twist', which sees the album close in suitably psychedelic fashion. It's a fine album closer that oddly recalls no band so much as the Butthole surfers with its somnambulant tempo and chrome-plated riffs grinding up against one another.
With brilliantly realised artwork courtesy of Orion Landau and a tight run-time that leaves no room for unnecessary filler, `Whales and Leeches' is the sort of gleaming stoner trip that so few bands seem to succeed in making. True, the album hops through territories previously inhabited, but it does so with style and panache and the band, ultimately, seem to be most interested in making the music that they want to hear, rather than pandering to any particular tastes or preconceived notions of what a record should sound like. The production is crisp and clear, capturing the crack of the snare and the evilly distorted growl of the guitars with aplomb and the band apply enough melody to make each moment memorable. The child of a multitude of influences, `whales and leeches' is an album that offers nods to the grunge and alternative scenes, a hefty tip of the hat to the stoner genre and even a mildly acidic trip into sludge territory, and yet it never sounds forced or disingenuous - Red Fang may well go on to release even better records, but for now this is a fine summation of their career to date.
Like this review? There are plenty more (and a brand new interview with Red Fang themselves) over at SonicAbuse
on 23 October 2013
The first eponymous album, a collection of EPs, has "Prehistoric Dog" but no other real standout tracks for me. But I think you could probably die happy having written Prehistoric Dog. Murder the Mountains has some fantastic moments, "Wires" is epic and I love the slow riffing of "Throw Up" but I think this is their best album to date, taken as a whole. No filler. At around the 2 minute mark of the first track "DOEN", a proper Red Fang riff appears and from then on I'm smiling. What I love about this band is that when they find a great riff they don't necessarily feel the need to do show you what else they can do, they let you enjoy it. There are some changes of pace too, it isn't just a barrage and the closing track "Every Little Twist" is perfect layered stoner rock. Red Fang are a band to see live (they absolutely smashed Download this year) and I'm looking forwards to hearing these new songs on the next tour. You should be, too.
on 20 March 2014
Red Fang truly deliver the goods on this album with 11 tracks of riff heavy sludgery. opener, "DOEN" is simply one of the best heavy rock/metal tracks I have heard in ages with ultrasaurus sized riffs and hard hitting drums. I really like the different vocal styles of Aaron Beam and Bryan Giles; they really compliment each other well. Bryan's vocals often remind me of Buzz Osborne from The Melvins. Drummer, John Sherman is a force to be reckoned with. The fills on the last track, "Every Little Twist" conjure up the ghost of John Bonham, complimenting the swampy space-metal perfectly.
Other highlights? "Blood like Cream"-an instant classic. Very pleased they got to play this on David Letterman; I hope this brings them greater exposure. Also very much into "Dawn rising" which features the impressive vocal talents of YOB's Mike Scheidt.
If you are into Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Melvins, Kylesa, Torche, Mastodon, Sabbath etc then you probably know and hopefully love these guys already. Anyone into heavier rock/metal/punk/grunge - check them out. Go and see them live too. They're fantastic.
2013’s Whales & Leeches is the third full-length album from the Portland, Oregan band Red Fang. Much like their previous album Murder The Mountain there is a mixture of Hard Rock, Stoner and Sludge sounds to be heard, and there is an emphasis on strong riffs. It ranges from being vaguely reminiscent of Kyuss to Mastodon to Neurosis on a surface level but usually within a short two-four minute rock track.
The music is kind of deceptively dense, due to its riffy nature, low vocals and raw earthy production, which may appear monotonous at first but can reveal hidden depths and great variety to those who persist, so its somewhat of a grower and may take a few listens to fully get into. Then again, with that being said it is more instant than their previous album. Really; its worth giving it that little bit of extra attention as the music is all very strong and interesting, even it if it doesn’t always jump out at you as immediately.
Stylistically, the album sees the band evening up their sound into a more cohesive whole. On previous records, they would have separate categories of songs, from more melodic cleaner tracks, to sludgy numbers, to slow Doomy numbers. On their debut for example, you could hear two different Red Fang songs and think they were from two completely different bands. On this album they mix all their styles together on each song, so tracks like ‘This Animal’ and ‘Every Little Twist’ and the brief punky Title Track are particularly interesting to listen to, and provide variety without making you sit up and ask “is this a different band?” – You can get a whiff of Blues, Hardcore or Doom all in the one track at times.
For me, the two strongest tracks are the opening two tracks, the excellent opener ‘Doen’ which contains the album’s best riff, and the catchy single ‘Blood Like Cream.’ Another highlight is the hypnotic seven-minute album centerpiece ‘Dawn Rising,’ which has some of the best vocals on the whole album.
Overall, Whales & Leeches is an interesting addition to the band’s catalogue and a logical next-step in the evolution of their sound. Its a solid album and if you usually enjoy things in this general area of the musical spectrum its worth investigating. If you are an existing fan, I suspect if you liked the track ‘Dirt Wizard’ from their previous record, you’ll really enjoy this one. If you haven’t heard the band before, but like bands like Mastodon, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Dozer or Baroness this is something you may be interested in. Its not actually all that similar to any one of those band, but it is loosely in the same ballpark as all of them.
on 10 December 2013
This album is quite fast paced and has riffs with such hooks they could certainly catch a whale (excuse the pun) the tracks are catchy the vocals are rough yet melodic and discernible whilst everything going on sounds like an actual band smashing out rocking tunes with each other with energy and musicality that isn't dull and is consistently good throughout, nothing on this album feels like filler. An highlight for me is 'Dawn Rising' which features Mike Scheidt from a band called YOB, this track is reminiscent of the aforementioned, 7 minutes long and Doomy also reminiscent of Black Sabbath I must say. Overall this album has me latched on like a leech (excuse the 2nd pun).