Red Fang ‘Murder The Mountains’ CD/LP/DD 2011
Some bands just need that one song to kick start their career. Unfortunately for a lot of those bands that one great song seems to be all that they’re capable and rock music is littered with the withered corpses of the one hit wonder. Other bands, however, have a whole bunch of killer tunes but just need that one killer tune to grab the punters by the balls and announce their arrival. Red Fang hit pay dirt with their 2009 debut self titled album. That album was comprised of two independent EPs but in kicking off with the track “Prehistoric Dog”, a cast iron classic, they grabbed the metal world by the balls and refused to let go. That album in its entirety was a fine effort if slightly inconsistent, perhaps due to the nature of its uneven genesis but it was enough to bring them to the attention of Relapse Records and with it comes the increased weight of expectation on their follow up.
Has it been worth the wait? Well, if I’m honest, Red Fang are not the kind of band I would usually listen to so, although I liked their debut, I don’t come to this album armed with any sense of investment and with that in mind I have to say that “Murder The Mountains” is one of the most irresistible and essential metal albums I’ve heard in recent years.
Kicking off with “Malverde” immediately announces the bands intent to pummel the listener with a dazzling array of Neolithic, crushing riffs. I will admit on the first couple of listens this track didn’t grab me and initially did not bode well for the rest of the album but repeated listens have revealed the song’s true worth as it twists through thick Melvins-esque guitar lines and rough hewn bellicose vocals. In fact The Melvins, in particular their more recent works, are a definite point of reference through the album but place that alongside other notable influences such as Black Sabbath, early Soundgarden and the Amphetamine Reptile stable of bands and you have a winning recipe for a noisy gumbo.
The opening riff to “Wires” goes on tantalisingly long enough to raise expectations before the drums crash into to herald a Sabbathy little stomper that possesses an instant and insistent vocal. I shit you not, and don’t stop reading in disgust, but I have to say the vocal does bring to mind some of Dave Grohl’s finest Foo Fighters moments. Say what you like about the guy he writes some catchy tunes and in their own little world so do Red Fang. Listen carefully and you’ll even hear the mighty riffs backed up by some slinky 70’s style organ. Sabbath would most definitely approve. One of the notable improvements over the first album is the greater use of the voices to create harmonies and layers whilst concentrating on making the vocal melody a strong focus of each song whether delivered with a belligerent bark or a more tempered, throat friendly croon.
“Hank Is Dead” rocks along at a fine driving pace and again features a stellar vocal melody that belies the riff’s relative simplicity. As with all the songs on this album, Red Fang’s ability to turn on a dime and change the mood seamlessly and flawlessly is evident as the song shifts into Sabbath mode and back to rocking grunge. The pace doesn’t let up for “Dirt Wizard” that adds a greater level of intensity with its broken, skipping riff and rough vocals. Again though, the chorus is magnificent before the song breaks down into a stunning disjointed loping middle section without losing sight of the melody inherent in every part of the song’s construction.
Catch your breath as “Throw Up” cruises in on a sinister, chugging riff. Again The Melvins are a prime comparison, particularly in the vocal delivery and the way the riffs twist round on themselves then straighten back out like some kind of angry serpent. Dare I say it as well, but there is even a hint of some of Kiss’ darker earlier Gene Simmons moments lurking in the fabric of this one…I’m thinking “She” put through a modern alternative blender. As with Sabbath before them though, Red Fang aren’t one to sit on their laurels and the song progresses through and adrenalized rock charge into a brooding, mighty lurching riff with surprising dexterity. It’s fair to say the majority of songs on this album rarely start the way they finish but the transitions pass by almost unnoticed and never leave you wanting to revisit a chorus as the push forward is tremendous.
Jack up the amphetamines as “Painted Parade” kicks off in big style bordering on punked up thrash metal but all delivered with Red Fang’s thick-as-treacle sound. At a little over two minutes, this is one of the most direct songs on the album structurally but provides a well placed kick in the nuts. “Number Thirteen” is basically how Queens Of The Stone Age should sound now, in fact, it’s how they should have always sounded from day one with its bouncing verse riff and soaring chorus. The mid section is something that Josh Homme has spent the best part of 15 years trying to achieve and here Red Fang nail it in just over 4 minutes but with ten times the dexterity and about a hundred times the balls!!! Throughout this album Red Fang achieve the perfect mix of oppressive heaviness alongside genius melodicism…no easy task.
“Into The Eye” offers one of the album’s darkest, heaviest and possibly most Melvins influenced moments but with the interplay between the lead and backing vocals they also achieve one of the most memorable melodic moments yet despite the vocals being delivered like a stuck bison!!!
Up to this point the level of intensity has been pretty consistent. Red Fang have pummelled and punished us with riff after motherfucking riff and kept the heaviness at a constant level so they leave it until track nine on a ten song album to offer up any chance to catch breath. “The Undertow” pulls back on the reins and shows that Red Fang are capable of delivering delicate when they want to. Granted we’re not talking a ballad here and the overall air of darkness is maintained, but this is as close to a ballad as you’re going to get. Sparse chords and drums back up yet another exceptional melody before giving way to a grand, loosely constructed climax as the song threatens to fall in on itself but just staying on the right side of collapse.
“Human Herd” closes the album in another melodic, hard rocking Josh Homme baiting slice of better-than-QOTSA Queens-esque rock and then it’s over. Once it’s done though this is one of those rare albums that you could easily put on again straight away and not tire of it…at least for one more sitting. In some respects Red Fang, in “Murder The Mountains” have created the perfect heavy album. It is melodic enough to appeal to the casual rock fan, catchy enough to stick itself right in your head front and centre yet heavy enough to satisfy those with a hankering to cause themselves some physical damage. It is little wonder that this album found itself on so many “best of 2011” lists and if justice is served, 2012 will be the year we all get bitten by the Fang!!!
Label: Relapse Records
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall