Red Fang – Whales and Leeches

Like many others, I got into Red Fang with their sophomore LP, Murder the Mountains. That album is a peerless display of good metal songwriting, with catchy riffs bolstered by the occasional proggish time-signature change. It, along with the best damn music videos ever made, quickly made me a new convert to their cause. They seemed to be possessed of an unstoppable momentum, as they supported Mastodon on tour and made Murder the Mountains one of the most acclaimed metal releases of 2011. Two years, a few tours, and an incalculable number of PBR cases later, we finally have the next chapter of the Red Fang saga to sink our teeth into, and it picks up right where the last one left off.

The one-two punch of “DOEN” and “Blood Like Cream” kick the album straight from first gear into fifth without a single stutter in the engine, and the hits just keep on coming.  The production is as beefy and the tunes are as catchy as ever, and the vocals resound with the best whiskey-honed growl this side of Matt Pike, or even Lemmy Kilmister. Red Fang have continued to hone their craft, sounding more and more like a grizzled and bearded Queens of the Stone Age that actually time-warped straight from the stone age. It’s hard to keep up momentum like this when you’re all in your thirties and three albums into a career, but Red Fang still sound hungry. They still sound like they’re ready to take on the entire world, and based on Whales and Leeches alone, they’d probably get pretty damn far before finally running out of steam.

Most songs on the record go through their motions in three minutes, maybe a bit less or more as the situation demands. The only really long song is the seven-minute monster “Dawn Rising,” a thunderously doomy number guest-sung by Mike Scheidt of fellow Oregon fuzz titans Yob, and even that doesn’t feel anywhere near like its complete running time. Each song is honed and polished with all the fat trimmed away, and even the numbers that don’t pull their weight as much as the choice cuts don’t stick around long enough for you to really notice their shortcomings. Above all, Red Fang are experts at making sure your time isn’t wasted.

This album satisfies your urges for beer-soaked sludgy rock like little else, except for the rest of their back catalog. Out of a crucible of cheap beer, ball sweat, and bong hits, Red Fang have birthed another chapter in their ever-continuing saga of solid rock and roll with a delicious sludgy scuzz. If you’re not a fan of their style of music already then there’s not much here to recommend, but if you ever felt like forging your empties into armor and weapons and heading off to beat the crap out of some LARPer nerds, this album is definitely for you.

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