Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
Written by: AP on 15/11/2016 21:32:23
One thing that Portland, OR’s Red Fang has sorely been missing is a record which could justify their surging popularity. There is a number of singles in the outfit’s repertoire that might explain it, but in truth none of the three albums issued since their inception in 2005 and until now, have been consistent enough alone to legitimise the quartet’s reputation as a premier emissary of the stoner metal genre. On this fourth outing “Only Ghosts” though, the overt pop sensibilities that began to creep into and form the ‘Fang’s signature sound on 2013’s “Whales and Leeches”, seem finally to have crystallised into a definitive collection of songs with real lasting value.
But despite enlisting a markedly poppier formula now, Red Fang is not out to alienate existing fans, as the music preserves all of the signature traits: a heavy and bassy foundation, a spooky tone, and elusive, quirky lyricism shared between bassist Aaron Beam and guitarist Maurice Bryan Giles in clean and harsh tones, respectively. What has changed is that those elements coexist in greater harmony than on past outings, harnessed by clearly defined hooks so that virtually all of the ten tracks “Only Ghosts” packs offer immediate and lasting value. Crucially, the latent influence of Queens of the Stone Age on the band’s methodology bubbles to the surface now, bursting into the devilishly catchy choruses jotting out of songs like “Flies” and “Cut It Short” and flowing freely in the sinuous style of Giles’ and his colleague David Sullivan’s riffs. Beam’s southern fried, Keith Buckley-ish singing works wonders in whisking up the sort of fickle atmosphere that gives the two guitarists free rein to jam out some reggae licks (in “Cut It Short”), then do a one-eighty to lay down some slabs of stoner-doom in “No Air”, and finally arrive at “Leviathan”-era Mastodon worship on the monumental “The Deep”.
One of the winning aspects of the album is precisely that — the unprecedented daring and the variety that it enables. Whether muddling the order of verse and chorus to catch the listener off guard (in “Flies”), twisting a mere eleven words into an absolute rager of a pop-stoner piece (“Shadows”), or summoning the hurting grandeur of doom with slow, trudging steps (in “The Smell of the Sound”), the Oregonian quartet seems to have new ideas to exhaust on each song. The record is not some crackpot of disjointed pursuits; all of the multiple facets are neatly tied around Red Fang’s unmistakable, mischievous tone, making “Only Ghosts” the most cohesive and album-like addition to the band’s repertoire thus far. It is convoluted, yet concise — or, as Beam muses in so many words just before the chorus of “Cut It Short”, takes the long road home but cuts it short.
Curiously, it is the ‘Fang’s brethren in Torche who have the exclusive privilege of being boxed into the ‘pop-stoner’ niche, despite moving in a markedly heavier direction on their latest album, 2015’s “Restarter”. Certainly on the basis of “Only Ghosts”, Red Fang seems the more ideal candidate for pushing the envelope of that genre now, having at last realised their potential of announcing doom, sludge and stoner metal to the masses. Indeed, having shed the role of the perpetual support act after breaking into the mainstream three years ago, Red Fang’s lettering on various festival bills should be going a size up now — anything else would be a disgraceful injustice.
Download: Flies, Cut It Short, Not for You, The Smell of the Sound, The Deep
For the fans of: Baroness, Clutch, Corrosion of Conformity, Torche
Release date 14.10.2016