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Red Fang: Whales and Leeches

red fangRed Fang
Wales and Leeches
(Relapse Records)

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Red Fang is a band of man-beasts. They encapsulate the true metal dogma of destruction, pillaging, and punishment – like a band of vikings, but from Portland. I was hoping their third album, Whales and Leeches, was going to be a sludgy, Melvinesque romp through the Valleys of Doom, but, rather, it strays from their previous efforts with a higher, sleeker production value that takes away from the raw power of their earlier albums.

The album opens with a straightforward assault entitled “DOEN.” I’m not exactly sure of the meaning of that title, but the song drills away with hot, snappy licks, and heavy snares that give it a real crispy pop and drive. The next track, “Blood Like Cream,” however, starts the trend of less inspiring menace that prevails over the remainder of the record. There’s a hard-to-illustrate modulation that layers many of the songs with too-glossy of a tone, along with repetitive, discordant choruses that ramble on for far too long and dilute the darkness of the of the auras that they’re trying to manifest. There’s also a mechanical feel about them that doesn’t jibe with me very much and falls flat from their prior stoner-rock heroism of tracks like “Prehistoric Dog” from their 2008 debut album that originally kicked me in the pants. That said, there are still a couple of songs, such as “1516” and “Every Little Twist,” that manage to plant a flag in a recognizable groove, but that’s really about it.

If stoner rock/metal is really your thing, it’s a passable album merely for the musical chops that so many metal fans and musicians seem to appreciate–the syncopated fits and starts can be stylistically impressive, but ultimately feel contrived for the sake of feigned complexity. It’s a strictly middle-of-the road album that will be listenable to their die-hard fans, but not too many else.

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