Review Summary: Portland's princes of beer and metal return to stake their claim for the throne with their sophomore effort...
If you've had any exposure to Red Fang prior to right now, it's likely been via the alcohol soaked, LARP-ing shenanigans of the band's video for Prehistoric Dog, the lead single (and album highlight) of their 2009 Sargent House debut. The pounding riffs, silly costumes, ridiculous mountains of empty beer cans, and infectious shouts of "time to kiss your ass goodbye"
served as a perfect snapshot of everything that Red Fang set out to accomplish with their debut, and what Red Fang
might have lacked in terms of production values with its rather thin guitar tones and shoddy drum production, it more than made up for with an ample amount of attitude. Now two years removed from their self titled debut, and with a new home at Relapse Records, Red Fang's sophomore release Murder the Mountains
takes a bit more of an outwardly serious approach by dialing back the visible humor a bit and amping up the ballsiness by a factor of about 10.
The most noticeable difference that the jump to Relapse has brought about in Red Fang's sound comes in terms of production, as every aspect of the bands sound has been considerably beefed up and streamlined in comparison with their debut, but thankfully, Red Fang has managed to embrace their newfound resources without losing any of their charm or quirky sensibilities. The songwriting is also much stronger this time around, as Murder the Mountains
finds Red Fang routinely hitting the sweet spot between catchy and heavy, playing up both of these aspects to the fullest extent. The opening 1, 2 punch of the pounding heaviness of Malverde and the head-nodding, quirky catchiness of Wires serve as a perfect example of just that. Malverde opens up the album with a slew of trudging, heavy riffs and guitarist Bryan Giles' repeated menacing growls of "That's the trick/I can't believe that you're falling for it."
. Wires, on the other hand, returns to an area closer to their debut with bassist Aaron Beam crooning over a barrage of catchy, heavy metal riffery. Wires also serves as the first re-introduction of the quirky humor found on their debut, as a xylophone screeches into the bridge to the plink away at the main guitar melody before the song explodes into one of the most ass-kicking riffs on the entire album.
Other tracks like Hank is Dead or album closer Human Heard stick with the same kind of straightforward structure and catchy, head-banging motifs as the first half of Wires, while tracks like the six and a half minute Throw Up veer sharply in the direction of balls to the wall, chugging heaviness. This contrast of relatively straightforward catchiness versus trudging heaviness is aided greatly by the different vocal approaches of Giles and Beam, as Giles' gruff, menacing shouts lend themselves to the albums heavier bits, and Beam's interesting JD Cronise (The Sword) meets Jarred Warren (Big Business) style of crooning fit in perfectly with the catchier sections.
As charming and fun as Red Fang's debut was, their jump to Relapse has clearly given them the resources they needed to make the album that they're truly capable of making. Both uncompromisingly heavy and gloriously infectious, Murder the Mountains
stands to be one the strongest releases in the realm of heavy music this year, and it seems that Red Fang has nowhere to go from here but up.