Red Fang are members of the virtually untouchable breed of American bands that are often described using some sort of swamp metaphor. They are part of the exclusive beardy bunch which includes Mastodon, Baroness, Black Tusk and many more a bit lower down the food chain. There’s nothing at all wrong with being part of that group; it’s a pretty good family to belong to…
One thing sets Red Fang apart from the rest, though. The Portland, Oregon crew convey more fun through their music than any of their peers. Red Fang’s music is more likely to get you crushing beer cans on your head and dancing on the bar than just about anyone else out there. ‘Whales and Leeches’ certainly carries on this tradition.
Alongside all this euphoria, Red Fang still manage to be downright heavy too. For every galloping rocker such as ‘Blood like Cream’ there’s a crushing number like ‘Behind the Light’.
‘Whales and Leeches’ sees Red Fang embracing this heaviness a little bit more than before in places. Shedding their sometimes goofy image for a more punishing stance; there’s some real clout in these new tracks. ‘Dawn Rising’ has a bottom heavy groove and a Mastodon style desperation in the vocals that makes it both a standout track and a change in atmosphere for the album.
The second half of proceedings takes a definite turn towards the slower and more reflective side. It’s a mood that suits Red Fang but perhaps sees them moving towards the sound of the other bands in the fuzzy wetlands. There are still plenty of beer soaked good time songs. ‘No Hope’ has a soulful blues quality to it that smells of Clutch but also has a more driving momentum courtesy of Red Fang.
‘Whales and Leeches’ sees Red Fang simultaneously carrying on their irresistible party inciting fuzz whilst embracing heavier climbs with great success. They’ve substituted a little bit of the fun for brooding heaviness; but it’s a well balanced mix of songs that may just see Red Fang moving up to the premier league of the Relapse Records roster.