Review Summary: In hindsight of 2011's release, it's pretty clear that Red Fang were on the right track with this, the culmination of two road EPs. This is pretty sweet shit.
Everybody knows that in most cases, a band's debut album is hardly ever a complete and whole body that was crafted with one idea in mind. Nor is a band's debut album a complete snapshot of one point in their still blossoming career. Debut albums are sometimes thrown together with the absence of a drummer, or sometimes feature tracks that were recorded upwards of three years apart. That's enough to completely change styles, isn't it? (Karnivool, I’m looking at you!) And others, like this one, burst onto the underground metal scene raw as ever as a direct result of two years on the road. These kinds of debuts are perhaps the most exhilarating, irrespective of nice additions like overarching theme or production quality. They’re for later.
Red Fang's self-titled debut is the coming together of two EPs that were released while the band were on the road. If you begin listening with this mentality the mayhem is much more vivid, so vivid, in fact, that I had visions of my younger self playing Need For Speed games with a customized EA Trax playlist – all the hard rock & metal, hardly any of the Hip Hop & Electronica. But this is not a ***ty revival of AC/DC, Jet or Airbourne- style driving music; it’s sludgy, and it’s from Portland, so you know it’s gonna be damn cool.
Tracks like Prehistoric Dog showcase a rollicking, hemiolic, modern-day medieval riffstorm, made all the more awesome by attention-grabbing niceties like, say, a modulation up three half-steps in the middle of a phrase. Neat little things like this are relatively technical and pleasing to hear, without being the kind of technical that requires endless shredding or retarded mid-verse transitions between guttering, “super-br00tal pig squeals” and angst-fuelled wailing. If you’re a metal cynic, you’ll know what I’m talking about and again, metal cynics, you’ve come to the right place.
The guitars are thick and fuzzy. Aaron Beam’s vocals are standard sludge-stoney goodness. I have a slight hunch that sludge bands like Red Fang, Baroness and Torche have little to no confidence in their melody writing abilities – I notice how the melodies are almost always root notes and 5ths, they’re both pretty failsafe and essentially safeguard the band from any possibility of writing soft ballad melodies. Irrespective of melodic simplicity (I mean, in what instance, other than punk music, has that ever been an issue people have qualms about?) Aaron’s vocals SOUND good and are complemented nicely by guitarist Bryan Giles on tracks like personal favourite “Humans Remain Human Remains” and are great alone on “Night Destroyer” and “Whales & Leeches”.
What’s even better are the fact that Red Fang are under no illusion in regards to how “metal” they actually are. Since the recent announcement of their touring with Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan they’ve said in a couple of interviews that although what they do is different to what metal fans are inclined to look for, touring with Mastodon gives them the chance to reach out to people who come to see Mastodon, but can probably understand and dig what Red Fang are doing too. You would think that metal fans, broad-minded enough to cultivate a following for a band with nine masked men in it, would be broad-minded enough to give metal of all styles a listen, rather than just what’s most “metal”. Red Fang thoroughly disprove the cement conventions of metal by being awesome, as is reflected in two years of hard work on the road. Give it a listen. You might even dig out your old copy of Most Wanted or Pro Street again just for kicks.