Red Fang are the first band I’ve got into through videos since, oh let me see, umm, Cameo, maybe? Stumbling across the video for ‘Prehistoric Dogs’ made my week and the follow-ups were all good too. They were funny, heavy, smart – how could I not go for an LP the next time I found myself on Amazon slightly tipsy? I bought Murder The Mountains in September 2013 because they’d given me so much fun it seemed rude not to. When it arrived boasting vinyl thick enough to stop a bullet, a cut-out sleeve and a picture of Donald Trump’s true form on the cover … that was just the cream on the biscuit.
I have seen Red Fang described as ‘stoner rock’ but that doesn’t really cut it for me, they don’t have that laid back attitude, sure this is a band who’ve listened to tinny Sabbath cassettes around a camp fire a few too many times, but this is undercut by a real driving urgency, a chunk more thrash metal in the stew. A better comparison might be a more energised Melvins, or Tad, with a bit less weirdness in the mix. There is definitely the same slightly wonky backwoods feel about these Portlanders and touches of the old grunge harmonies about the more melodic cuts like ‘Hank Is Dead’ and ‘Wires’. This is very much a band with a sense of humour and not a joke one at all.
I like Murder The Mountains and it’s a real grower. It all seemed a bit murky to me at first but after enough listens it all started to coalesce and the melodies hit home properly. Where they nail it just right, like the monstrously heavy ‘Throw Up’, it becomes a thing of beauty. ‘Throw Up’ is amazing, the best heavy track I’ve listened to in ages, imagine Master Of Puppets played by really angry farm hands and you’re half way there, not that there’s anything remotely sloppy here, this cuts like a knife, there’s even a slight touch of Alice in Chains on this one. Just listen to how deep that bass is – subsonic, baby!
Now the scum from the creek is filling up your cheeks,
and you can hardly speak
While the bones in your brain grind themselves away,
they will make you sane
If the steps of your path reflect your building wrath,
they will be your last
And you can thank me
Whilst ‘Throw Up’ is worth the price of the LP alone, mention must also be made of the spooky, atmospheric slow build of ‘The Undertow’, which calls Tool to mind, which is surely never a bad thing? Should I ever have to soundtrack an epic film about wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland sorrowfully, it’s in the bag. Just brilliant and worth the price of the LP alone, or did I just do that cliché? Other honorary mentions must go to the positively hurtling ‘Hank Is Dead’, which has some great vocals* and the impressively hefty, malevolent ‘Into The Eye’.
Chris Funk** produces this album just right, no mean feat to get those levels of clarity and smoke-wreathed fuzz perfectly balanced. It goes without saying that the musicianship here is absolutely first-rate too, so I just said it.
It’s nice in these days of (slips into old fart mode) iTunes, Spotify and instant gratification that there are gentlemen like Red Fang out there still making old-fashioned growers and LPs like Murder The Mountains you actually have to listen to carefully to enjoy.
All hail the backwoodsmen!
*along with a fucking genius video:
Mind you, so has ‘Wires’:
**of The Decemberists, no less.