Review Summary: Booze-fueled rock that kicks your ass every time.
Ever since their self-titled Sargent House debut in 2009, Red Fang seem to have taken the heavy music underground by storm. Extensive touring, many high profile festival dates, memorable music videos, and a brand of hard rock that has widespread appeal. Aaron Beam, David Sullivan, Bryan Giles, and John Sherman are a force to be reckoned with.
Red Fang’s music is heavily distorted, sludgy, and undeniably catchy. Those themes have shown up in each release since their first record, but what they were able to do with their Relapse Records debut (and sophomore effort) Murder the Mountains, was put forth a more powerful and therefore effective version of themselves. It was as if they gained 40 lbs in muscle. Not only were the songs still memorable, but the beefier production lent a more imposing presence to the sound, and gave a stronger lasting impression overall.
It seems that one factor that has drifted under the radar with Red Fang is their progressive tendencies, such as the alternating 3/4 and 21/16 time of “Prehistoric Dog”, or the dual guitar back and forth of “Throw Up”. This is where Whales and Leeches succeeds greatly. The riffs in general are slightly lopsided, and quite unpredictable, and the rhythm section matches this to great effect, while keeping the songs from getting too out of hand (“DOEN”, “1516”). These songs are still filled with addictive hooks and the ever-present catchiness. Red Fang has not lost the ability to write a song that’ll get stuck in your head. The vocals are also very well delivered. Aaron Beam is still improving his distinctive croon, which pushes itself to the forefront during “Blood Like Cream” and Bryan Giles is sounding as menacing as ever. The vocal melodies are quite varied as well, never really becoming stale over the course of the album. And another welcome addition to this release is the guest appearance by Yob’s Mike Scheidt. His Mustaine/Wino hybrid voice is very effective in getting the second side of the record kicked off right, and makes “Dawn Rising” that much more epic.
Whales and Leeches also benefits from a very polished finish. The production is stellar, every track seems to be just the right length and the constant twists and turns feel very deliberate (even if they aren’t). Overall this album just exudes craftsmanship. This band has obviously figured out a formula that works for them, and are constantly improving their work upon each new record. While their music still maintains a (somewhat) universal appeal, Red Fang are always pushing the boundaries of what stoner music can be.
But in the end, it’s still booze-fueled rock that kicks your ass every time, so just sit there with your favorite brew (or vintage, I’m not here to judge) and enjoy another fantastic release from the lovable boozers of Portland.