It’s not often that I get to review some long-standing musical idols of mine, so when the new RED FANG came into the newsroom, I leapt at the opportunity. With a discography that already includes three very impressive long-players, I need to restrain myself from waxing lyrical about how consistently excellent this band has been over the past eleven years. More pressing is the delicious task of digesting their latest, Only Ghosts.
The perfectionist production of Joe Barresi has brought many a hard-rock musician to their knees. Bands requesting this mans’ engineering expertise must be ready to perform at their very highest level or suffer the consequence of an ego-crushing putdown. But, if ever there were four musicians up to the task of meeting Barresi’s standards, it is the gents from RED FANG. It is abundantly clear to me that the sizzling riff-choice and sludgey tone selection on this one are a perfect match for the razor-sharp mix that Barressi is reknowned for in hard-rock circles.
Album-starter, and opener for the latest Relapse Records Sampler Flies, is a case-in-point. Cue crushing, heavy rock riffs, attacking vocal lines, blissful psych-interludes, wailing escalation, and a stomping, truly iconic outro. I think I’ve just blown my (metaphorical) load, and it’s only the first song! “Cut it Short” allows no time for breathing space, banging the speaker diaphragms into a festival of rocking pulsation. You see, to me, RED FANG is a party band, each one of their riffs and grooves are clearly identifiable as something that has been born of a bollocking good jam and is way too good NOT to turn into a song. The relentless attack of two extremely proficient vocalists (in bassist Aaron Beam and guitarist Maurice Giles) is the icing on this cake, and really defines why it seems impossible to listen to RED FANG without banging your head.
’Journey music’ is another way to define what RED FANG does, a place to disappear and really explore the machinations of your own mind. “No Air” is a great space for the contemplative:
“You are not anyone
You are not anyone
You are not anyone
You are not anyone”
But it’s “The Smell of the Sound” that is the quintessential journey track of this album. Commencing with a dirge-like groove and ethereal psychedelic interlude, phasing the entire mix into a soaring pinnacle, this track is a real trip. Guitarist and synth-player David Sullivan owns this space with his atmospherics, and really starts to bend the mind before the rhythm section led by Drummer John Sherman breaks back into a crushing, pulverising grind.
Ahh, satiation! The gratification of perfectly executed music like Only Ghosts really is arguably better than sex! Everything has been left on the studio floor on this record. The orgasm of this rock trip is complete, the mind is content with its auditory binge and resumes silence, replete. This band breathes what it does, and their current 54-date tour schedule is testament to that. Comparisons to fellow rock monsters Clutch, Kyuss, and Mastodon serve little purpose to a band at this point in their evolution. If you would like some worthwhile advice, don’t discover this band posthumously, or years down the road. It’s happening now: the chemistry, the performance, the cosmic-nod! In RED FANG’s own words, “The rapture is calling.”
Written by Scott Andrews
*edited by Kate Erickson