Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Red Fang Does Murder The Mountains

Red FangAlthough Murder The Mountains was released in April, Portland-based Red Fang continues to chug along with an album that is less throwback than timeless in combining the better elements of 1970s and 1990s heavy metal. Yes, there are certainly some heavy-handed riffs and just enough sludge to mistake them as stoner rock. But there's something more at work here.

While many metal bands are comfortable with gimmicks or singular standout talents, Red Fang delivers the entire package — solid songwriting, mile-deep arrangements, and a punk-like brutality. It also doesn't hurt that this album was produced by Chris Funk (The Decemberists) and the band's signing with Relapse Records, which seems hell bent on letting these boys do what they do best.

Red Fang drinks cheap beer, records great music, and produces addictive vids.

Ever since the guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles (Last of the Juanitas, Party Time), bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam (Dark Forces, Lachrymator), guitarist David Sullivan (Party Time, facedowninshit) and drummer John Sherman (Party Time, Bad Wizard) got together six years ago and started boiling down the music they wanted to make, they've been having the time of their lives.

You can hear it in everything they do, creating the illusion that Murder The Mountains has played together for decades. Sure, three of them have played together for about a year, but their previous outings carried some avant-math, trash, or classic metal baggage. Their only goal with Red Fang, as Giles puts it, is nothing more than finding "the maximum amount of awesomeness." And while that might not sound serious enough for most metal, then you're starting to understand the band.

The essence of Red Fang is that metal can be great without being presumptuous. Don't misunderstand me. The arrangements are roughly polished. The songwriting is underscored in seriousness.

"Momma's not okay, she lights a candle for every day that you're away. Today could be the one she burns the motherfucker down, the final act of grace. In a pointless endless race." — Wires.

But the attitude isn't. Even diehard metalheads have noted they are one of the most down-to-earth bands on the circuit. There is no leather, but there is no doubt that these guys can play.

Aside from Wires with its full on fuzziness and soulfully restrained vocals, any starter set ought to include Hank Is Dead, which carries a giant melody and big riffs. Dirt Wizard gets the full weight of weariness. And Human Herd has a grunge vibe that draws in their diversity. The Deluxe album also has three bonus tracks, with Over The Edge as classic as they come.

There are some songs on the album that are consistent but not necessarily great. More importantly, there are no duds unless you count the two other bonus tracks. Neither feel fully baked. But if you want something to make up for it, turn to their self-titled release from 2009. Prehistoric Dog is the best track on that album.

Murder The Mountains By Red Fang Bites 7.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Although Red Fang clearly channels some of the greatest sounds from the past, they construct it in a way that makes it original. Interestingly enough, the band credits Funk and their manager Laurel Stearns for the move to Relapse (and not the other way around). Funk had known Beam for years and asked to produce their sophomore album after Red Fang's debut.

You can download Murder The Mountains from iTunes. You can pick up the CD at Barnes & Noble. Murder The Mountains is also on Amazon.

The band has been touring as part of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival this summer, and confirmed last week that they will be returning to the Pacific Northwest to play at the long-running Seattle music and arts festival, Bumbershoot (Sept. 3). And while it's likely too late to pull together an entry today, the band is also running a T-shirt design contest. Voting takes place Aug. 10-17.
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