Red Fang – Whales and Leeches

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Review by Will Harris

Relapse Records

While certainly Portland, Oregon’s boulder-moving stoner metal champions Red Fang have gathered a fervent and international audience with their first two albums, there are many more listeners who probably feel they never really exceeded the unstoppable juggernaut perfection of ‘Prehistoric Dog’, the lead track from their debut, popularised by its brilliantly goofy YouTube video. Well, Red Fang have a response: the incendiary opening trio on  Whales and Leeches. First song ‘Doen’ revs up from shapeless guitar clanging to a thundering, bouncing earth-shaker of a tune, and doesn’t stop through the fist-throwing driving rock of ‘Blood Like Cream’ and the darkened punk of ‘No Hope’. In a lot of ways, much of Whales and Leeches is the kind of record many fans of Songs for the Deaf hoped for when Queens of the Stone Age released ‘My God Is The Sun’ as the first single of …Like Clockwork earlier this year; in others, this is a much harder album than Homme and co would likely ever put out.

Red Fang have clearly gone for all-out rock on this one, but it also means they’ve trimmed the fat and tied everything together. Any classic rock riffs such as those found on Murder The Mountains have been jacked in for more raw, jagged, chromatic ones like in ‘Crows in Swine’, and as a result the heavier songs don’t seem so out of place. Indeed, for all the album’s appeal as a party metal record, it’s also here that Red Fang take cues from more unlikely bands like the Melvins in songs like ‘1516’ and ‘Behind The Light’; the latter actually sounds like what, hypothetically, Buzz Osborne might give to you if you asked him to write a hit single.

It’s not all hell-for-leather though; the slamming chords at the beginning of ‘Dawn Rising’ promise another fast one, but instead it breaks to a palm-muted bong-haze blues, its steady, bubbling verses instantly intravenous. An unexpected but welcome performance here comes from Mike Scheidt from YOB, his twisted Mustainesque snarl adding an apt level of menace to the smoky track. Unfortunately, the song’s violent closing riff shatters the stupor a little too harshly, one of a number of misfires on the album; ‘Voices of the Dead’ has a mid-tempo repetitiveness that isn’t bad but nevertheless dispels the charge of the first few tracks, while ‘1516’ starts off well but (unintentionally) falls apart on its way out. It’s true that these blemishes might make the difference between a good album and a great one, but its many saving graces — not forgetting the spark-up-and-drive Kyuss feel of closer ‘Every Little Twist’ — make Whales and Leeches Red Fang’s most accomplished and most accessible output yet.

Red Fang - Whales and Leeches7.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. DOEN
  2. Blood Like Cream
  3. No Hope
  4. Crows in Swine
  5. Voices of the Dead
  6. Behind The Light
  7. Dawn Rising
  8. Failure
  9. 1516
  10. This Animal
  11. Every Little Twist