Red Fang

support Förtress
author AP date 04/08/16 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

It has always struck me as a bit mysterious how, out of all the new generation sludge/stoner metal bands of the world, it was Red Fang that ran with the largest following. With the exception of a few tracks off each, none of the group’s albums have had me in thrall like the works of, say, Baroness or The Sword. But time after time, when the Portland, OR quartet pays Denmark a visit, the shows tend to sell out well in advance just like tonight’s gig. And so, dutifully, I decided to give the band yet another chance to convince me — perhaps I have simply been missing something that everyone else can see?

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Förtress

The honour of opening the evening’s proceedings was bestowed upon local heavy rock jesters Förtress, who seize the opportunity with formidable enthusiasm. Armed with a nigh perfect sound mix, and with each musician’s batteries charged to maximum, the band delivers perhaps its finest domestic showing yet and cements itself among the absolute elite of Danish live acts right now. Guitarist/vocalist Nicklas Kirchert and drummer Cato Jørgensen are hallowed by their usual aura of madness, the former’s strange head movements and bulging adding just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek attitude to go with the retro-gazing tunes; the latter’s furious treatment of his kit bringing a festive atmosphere to the rear of the stage as well. The more conservative rocking out of lead guitarist Simon Sonne Andersen, and the tripped out, introspective ways of bassist Emil Winther complete the impression of a band whose every member offers his own nuance to a captivating visual aesthetic.

Of course it helps that Förtress’ songs, too, tend to make an instant and lasting impact, the quartet’s penchant for fusing conventional songwriting with clearly defined verses and choruses with the same sort of jammy, psychedelic edge that you find in e.g. Kadavar’s music. The tracks burst at the seams with awesome riffs and euphonious four-way vocal harmonies that elicit a thunderous response from the home crowd — which is hardly a surprise given how badass and tight Förtress’ supporting half an hour of power is. If this is the standard we can expect from these boys henceforth, then they could easily shoulder a venue of this size on their own.

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Red Fang

It bodes well that this particular Red Fang concert is the first of just two European club shows booked around their Wacken Open Air performance — an exclusive opportunity to steal a march on fans who are anxiously eyeing the release of the band’s fourth studio album, “Only Ghosts”, in October. It was always a given that Red Fang would air a handful of tracks off that record at these shows, but with six brand new picks included on the setlist, most people, including yours truly, seem to be taken aback by the ‘Fang’s willingness to spill the beans so early. The first of these, “Cut It Short”, heralds a little switcharoo between people consigning Torche to the pop-stoner niche, because whereas Torche took some distance to the ‘genre’ by moving in a slower and heavier direction on their latest album ”Restarter”, Red Fang seems to be positioning itself to move in there with the forthcoming record. That impression is strengthened by “Not for You” later on, which finds bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam occupying the vast majority of the track with his clean pipes, and the band’s prioritising treble in the mix to a larger extent than has been the case on previous occasions (mind you, the material still sounds heavy as fuck when needed!) also suggests that changes are a-comin’.

As interesting it is to get these sneak peeks into future Red Fang though, the reason that the band actually manages to win me over tonight — to make me understand and appreciate its popularity — is just how well the interaction between the four musicians and an audience thieving a start on the weekend works. Beam and his colleagues, guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, lead guitarist David Sullivan and drummer John Sherman, stage a spirited performance (not quite as wild as that of Förtress, but energetic and entertaining nonetheless) and the crowd responds with all manner of moshing, crowd surfing and singing along to hits such as “Blood Like Cream” and the encore-closing “Prehistoric Dog”. I honestly am not sure whether Red Fang has always oozed such fervour, but at least with the pepper of the new songs added to the proceedings (the Mastodon-esque “No Air” as well as the LP’s lead single “Flies” are particularly compatible to my taste), the show ticks all the characteristics needed to etch itself into my memory. Certainly it is the best Red Fang have been on Danish ground, and at that a strong motivator for maybe taking the trip to Malmö or Odense when the band returns to Europe in the autumn with — you guessed it — Torche in tow.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Dirt Wizard
  • 02. Cut It Short
  • 03. Bird on Fire
  • 04. Malverde
  • 05. Crows in Swine
  • 06. Blood Like Cream
  • 07. No Air
  • 08. Not for You
  • 09. Wires
  • 10. The Smell of the Sound
  • 11. The Deep
  • 12. Sharks

— Encore —

  • 13. Flies
  • 14. Prehistoric Dog

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