This just goes to show that practicing your instruments can make any and all clichés sound good.
How awesome is it when the old blokes give music a red hot go?
When musicians reach a certain age, they have the liberty to produce whatever they want and it usually falls squarely into the “it's great that your still doing this” box. Thankfully, the new record from Montana quartet, Red Fang, is one that works in two ways. It has the novelty of experienced musos kicking around in the studio and producing an old-school stoner metal album (I swear I could taste tobacco after the first two songs), and secondly, despite the clichés of yesterday's heroes trying to “bring it back”, 'Only Ghosts' is actually solid. Legit, you've got ten songs that stand out from one another and each one has their own individual “badass" moments.
However, I must admit that after the first five seconds of album opener 'Fly', I was bracing myself for an hour of recycled, over produced distortion from a Gibson sunburst, but after the tease of the bluesy opening riff, the song gets let right off its leash with Aaron Beam stomping into the mix and screaming his opinions right at the listener.
Whilst at heart Red Fang are obviously inspired by the gods of the blues and heritage metal, there is a refreshing sense of contemporary influence throughout the album. 'Cut It Short' is the first chance for co-vocalist Brian Gyles to really take control, singing some catchy-as-hell melodies over a groovy riff that flirts with alternate time signatures. Lead single 'Shadows' also dips its toe into the world of hooks, before dropping a proggy, technical laden instrumental that shows that the members of Red Fang have actually practised their instruments. Throw in some of the fuzziest bass distortion ever heard, and you have a lead single that ticks all the boxes for accessibility whilst remaining true to the band's heaviness. Likewise, 'No Air' drops into one hell of a groovy shuffle in the chorus before taking a darker path in the bridge with huge slabs of guitar accompanying the doomy snarls of Beam.
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10 points to Red Fang!
The gold medal, however, would have to go to 'The Smell Of The Sound'. Aside from conjuring up all manner of sensory feels, the song is a master-class in dynamic and interesting songwriting. Any song that can go from a psychedelic, fuzzy mid-tempo march to a thrashing, atmospheric anthem doused in reverb and wah-pedals is a winner in my book, and if the sound of that doesn’t excite you then there are some Coheed and Cambria records waiting in the corner for you.
No doubt comparisons will be made between fellow sludge rockers Mastodon and Kyuss Lives after hearing 'Only Ghosts', but what Red Fang might lack in mandatory wankiness they more than atone for in the pure power of riffs on the record. Everything on this record fits the flow of the album overall like a glove. The operatic aggression contrasted with horrific roars in the vocals (look no further than 'The Deep', kids), the band's discipline in not cramming in riff after riff where it’s not needed and their ability to seamlessly traverse from up tup-tempo to murky, sludgy breakdowns makes this record one enjoyable ride.
Sure, there’s nothing here that could be called “new”, but that’s not what Red Fang are about. They just wanna play some jams that can rip your balls off, but in the easiest way to handle.
Despite the doubts that I had going in to this record, it's apparent that Red Fang just enjoy jamming together. This is a band that doesn't try to make things sound good - they just do what they want, and the result is both cool and heavy AF!
2. “Cut It Short”
4. “No Air”
6. “Not for You”
7. “The Smell of the Sound”
8. “The Deep”
9. “I Am a Ghost”
10. “Living in Lye”