RED FANG: BETTER THAN NATTY ICE?
Not to pat ourselves on the hairy back, but MetalSucks couldn’t have picked a better parting gift as our last post of 2008 than the video for Red Fang’s “Prehistoric Dog.” This insta-classic clip found the hard-drinking Portlanders fashioning armor and weapons from thousands of discarded beer cans, then waging war against a gaggle of LARP enthusiasts, with some hilarious/unexpected results. And while this probably wasn’t the intent behind the video, it’s a pretty handy metaphor for what Red Fang do on their eponymous debut fell-length: meld good old-fashioned hard rock and vintage metal, as familiar as a room temperature can of Pabst, and reconstitute them for battle.
Red Fang collects two EPs that the band originally released in miniscule quantities on Wantage USA. The songs here were laid to tape not long after Red Fang first congealed from bits and pieces of PDX bands Bad Wizard, Last of the Juanitas, Party Time and facedowininshit, and you can tell. Every single one crackles with the energy of a band that’s flying by the seat of its Tecate-soaked pants, recording every song the moment it’s finished, before it loses its spontaneity. That’s not to say that Red Fang are lacking in songcraft – au contraire, “Reverse Thunder” and “Good To Die” slaughter with compact, swaggering riffs and sly choruses carved out of Queens of the Stone Age granite, and carry just enough of the heavy to keep the edges sharp. The roughshod vibe’s key here though. Headphone metal or arena rock this ain’t. Red Fang play music for dudes in flannel and biker jackets, packed in sweaty clubs with low ceilings and no top shelf at the bar.
Red Fang’s energy occasionally eclipses their songs, which is why the cowbell that opens “Sharks” is more memorable than its non-existent vocal melody, and the crackling, formless MC5 biker punk of “Witness” doesn’t carry off so well on record as it would in aforementioned sweaty, low-ceilinged club. But when Red Fang invest their songs with structure that amplifies the in-the-red wattage, rather than fights against it, there’s some burly magic at work. That happens on “Prehistoric Dog,” which transforms The Sword from pussyboy Tolkien dorks into mustachioed hell-raisers. The best example of Red Fang’s power has to be “Humans Remain Human Remains.” A slow, foreboding guitar churn rises from a simple organ drone and erupts into a ginormous doom jam, and an even bigger chorus. It would be the indisputable highlight of the night at any show Red Fang played, and they play a whole lot. Maybe the album’s just a token of the live show, but it’s a damn fine token.
(3 ½ out of 5 horns)