Red Fang Bare Diverse Teeth On Whales and Leeches

  • Kip Wingerschmidt

Over the last decade, it has become much more acceptable for aged rockers to keep pursuing their dreams of melting faces as they delve deeper into their 30s, and even (gasp) their 40s. Obviously priorities change as life goes on — wives are impregnated, kids are born, mortgages are looming, mouths are hungry — and the fuck-it attitude one often has as a band member in his 20s usually dissipates, shifting into a more immediate, “let’s-rock-in-a-more-feasible-way-given-the-realities-of-life” outlook. Not that it makes the personal mission any less vital; perhaps it becomes even more so out of necessity and limited time/resources. For many of us, our creative endeavors continue to evolve as we grow older.

Oregonians Red Fang fall into this camp. This band of slightly-older dudes has been making music for years, but it seems only recently that the world has really began to embrace its sound. In the last few years, the band has toured with Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Black Tusk, and more — both here in the States and abroad (Europe and Australia).  And now, with third album Whales and Leeches, Red Fang may really be ready to take the next step up. Are the songs strong enough for worldwide domination? Let’s examine.

Opener “DOEN” starts off promising enough, with a fierce syncopated riff and building drum entrance, but once the song kicks in it feels a bit more typical than I was hoping. Nonetheless, this tune is relentlessly ripping, and a solid beginning to an album that most assuredly rocks aplenty, allbeit in a slightly humdrum fashion at times.

The next couple tracks, “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope”, somehow seem to channel a punkier version of The Offspring in various melodies (especially in the choruses) — an influence that some may be overjoyed to hear represented, but not this guy. Red Fang are decidedly at their best when they embrace a mood and sense of purpose that doesn’t get in its own way with awkward progressions.

By the time we reach the middle chunk of songs the band hits a nice stride with an arresting run of powerhouse jams. Mastodonian ditty “Crows in Swine”, haunting anthem “Voices of the Dead”, and dissonant rocker “Behind The Light” are shining examples of how far Red Fang has come, and how diverse this outfit can truly be.

“Dawn Rising” brings it all together in a seven minute gem that touches upon several moods, from the peppy intro to the soulfully sludgy brooding Sabbath-y verse to the glimmer of hope offered in the momentarily major-key chorus to the thick headbanging groove laid down five minutes in — this one runs the gamut of heaviness.

“Failure” contains one of the most effective anthemic melodies and some of my favorite lyrics on the album.  There is a nice display of group singing here (as there is on a few other key tracks), which serves to elevate the group’s sound to much more than just typical stoner metal.  “1516” returns to an edgier Mastodon Jr. status, although not as effectively as the aforementioned “Crows in Swine”.  “This Animal” doesn’t do too much for me aside from a slightly fancy ending, but album closer “Every Little Twist” has a very nice laid-back, almost QOTSA vibe about it.

Whales and Leeches is a collection of diverse, technically competent songs, but don’t go expecting any jaw-dropping feats of instrument mastery here; this is more like slightly-heady-raise-your-fists-and-beer-mugs-high kind of music made by burly dudes who probably don’t give a shit if you like it. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. God bless em.

Red Fang’s Whales and Leeches comes out October 15 on Relapse. Stream the track “No Hope” here and pre-order physical copies here and digital copies from iTunes or Bandcamp. And don’t forget to enter the Red Fang guitar solo contest for a change to win some sweet swag!

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