I had bought two Red Fang albums, the eponymous ‘Red Fang’ and ‘Murder the Mountains’ based on the personal recommendation of a very occasional drinking companion Ben Ward (hear that clanging noise folks? It’s a massive name drop!), and whilst I enjoyed them, nothing made me want to leap in the air and do back flips; they were both damn good and solid slabs of metal, but not game changers. However, with their latest release through Relapse Records, ‘Whales and Leeches’, the band have genuinely upped their game, and produced a potential future classic.
‘Whales and Leeches’ opens with ‘DOEN’ an in your face battering of stoner rock, sounding like their previous release ‘Murder the Mountains’ but with a huge shot of adrenaline: the drums pound harder; the bass is tighter; the guitars are riffing with more aggression, and the whole sound is fuller. ‘Blood Like Cream’ follows fast and hard on the heels of the opener, and the same more aggressive tendencies push to the fore, the rhythm section having a positive swagger throughout. The band follows up with the punkish shout of ‘No Hope’ an excellent sub 3 minute blast of aggression. ‘Crows In Swine’ follows on quickly, with more complex guitars, and a technical feel that made me think of a stripped back Voivod with the time changes designed to fool the single pace headbanger, a trick I can only commend, believing as I do that music should never be too simple or comfortable.
The whole album mixes and merges genres, combining simple punk beats with complex progressive riffing, the attack of ‘Behind the Light’ typifying the band’s sound, starting out with a simple guitar bludgeoning before layer upon layer of complexity builds up into an almost prog crescendo. The longest track on the album is ‘Dawn Rising’ a seven minute combination of Tool like hypnotic riffs and hardcore vocals of a classic era Corrosion of Conformity, the bass line positively forcing the most stiff of necks to bow in time to the beat.
‘Whales and Leeches’ is not a simple album, but one that crosses genres and is hopefully bound to appeal to many, from the dyed in the wool fan to the occasional visitor to the world of metal who thinks of the Foo Fighters as their musical rebellion . Imagine, if you can, a Venn diagram where on one side you have Queens of the Stone Age and on the other, Mastodon; that diagram’s intersection is Red Fang. Heavy and authentic, but with the ability to appeal to those for whom the words heavy and metal are taboo.