I first became aware of Red Fang back in around 2010 when I came across the self titled debut via a friends recommendation. They grabbed my interest immediately, carrying off that vibe of doing something new with an old school sludgy attitude that boomed somewhat following the popularity of Mastodon’s early albums. And with that it was no surprise that Relapse (the best metal label out there at the moment in my opinion) picked them up. Since then I have followed the bands progress and steady improvement over the last 3 albums, and so was very keen to get my hands on this latest offering “Only Ghosts”
When I say steady improvement over the previous 3 albums I mean exactly that. I loved them from the first album, but I have found that each of their previous albums displayed a step up in song writing, production and performance with each consecutive release. It has been a steady but noticeable wave of creativity these guys have been riding, and in particular the last release “Whales and Leeches” was an awesome modern rock album, and carried the unmistakable sound of a confident band who have refined their sound and have well and truly arrived at their intended destination.
So given that high praise and noticeable arc of quality, I was naturally very keen to hear where they would take the sound next. However on the first listen of this new album I have to be honest and say I was a little disappointed.
Now don’t get me wrong. When I say disappointed I am not saying I dislike this album. In fact far from it. What surprised and slightly disappointed me at first is also one of the finer points of this album. Allow me to explain. Whereas each album has improved on the last, I did state that the last album carried the sound of a band who have arrived where they wanted to be. And it feels with this album that rather than push the envelope further, they have for the most part decided to stay exactly where they were with the last album.
Whilst this was at first something I had a negative response to, on repeated listens that faded away entirely and I found myself enjoying the album for what it is. That being a great and highly enjoyable modern rock album, and more importantly a great Red Fang album.
If you are a fan of the band already then you are sure to enjoy this as much as anything they have done thus far. It is business as usual in the best possible sense. From the opening riff to the last they deliver catchy riffs, great grooves and dual vocals that keep the dynamics sounding fresh throughout. The production is a little cleaner than I would have liked. I would have preferred a little more crunch to it but that is a very minor complaint as overall the production is still excellent. Other than that it all sounds like classic Red Fang. And for me to be able to use a term like that whilst describing a band that only formed back in 2005 says all that needs to be said about how much of an original and individual sound these guys have managed to create for themselves.
Red Fang will almost certainly take nothing on board from anything I say here in my review (or anything anyone else says for that matter) because to me they have the sound and style of band who are doing exactly what they want and genuinely don’t care what anybody thinks of it. And that is exactly what I love about them. It’s an attitude that has served them well so far, and continues to do so on this new album as much as it ever has.
So to sum up. My own unique expectation aside, this is a solid outing from these guys. More of the same but that is by no means a bad thing. I personally would love to see these guys take up a step and branch out into a bigger and more experimental rock sound that to my ears they sound very capable of and would be a natural progression from where they are right now. But for now I am still left very happy with what’s on offer here, and I am certain any fan of their previous work will be as well.
(8/10 Mark Gleed)