You may not know Red Fang by name, but if you’ve been near the internets recently, you’ve probably seen the video for their debut single "Prehistoric Dog". It’s ‘gone viral’ as the kids say, and rightfully so: it’s easily one of the best videos of the last five years. Incorporating host of visual delights, including excessive beer consumption, live action role playing, creative recycling and Monty Python-esque gore, you owe it to yourself to seek it out immediately. In fact, the video is so good that you might be distracted from the fact that Red Fang are much more than an awesome video. That would be doing the four Portland natives a great disservice, as a trip through the self-titled Red Fang debut will assert quite definitively that they are nothing less than a full-on four-piece Metal onslaught.
It’s a good time to be in a metal band. Mastodon and The Sword are nabbing Grammy nominations while classic acts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest draw the same huge numbers they did in their 80s heydays. Even more notably, the crowds are comprised of increasingly larger numbers of young fans with their parents. Who says metal doesn’t promote good family values?
Like The Sword, Red Fang owe more to the Black Sabbath or Motorhead end of the spectrum. There’s some heavy cowbell and ride action going on here, and it’s not even close to being ironic. Red Fang aren’t a one trick pony, either. On tracks like "Sharks", they change tempos at will, and before you know it, you’re pretty much helpless to avoid flailing around like you’re a dozen beers in at a Melvins show. It’s not normally in my nature, but by the middle of said song, I was very glad that I live alone. By the end, I was pretty sure there were good reasons for that status. In my defense, the song is named "Sharks" and metal rules of conduct mandate a certain level on enthusiasm.
For a four-piece, Red Fang make a hell of a lot of a racket. There are times when they get almost Nirvana with it, due in no small part to drummer John Sherman’s non-stop pummeling. This guy hits hard, whether it’s on the swaggering "Good To Die" or in slower, sludgy parts like the ones on "Humans Remain Human Remains" that come close to the Melvins side of the Nirvana sound. Perhaps maybe a bit too much: the chorus hook and its similarity to "Heart Shaped Box" may very well precipitate a call from Ms. Love, especially given her recent squandering of her ill-gotten gains. Musical similarities aside, the vocals are hardly warmed over Creed-ified Kurdt Vedderisms. Props also have to be given to singer/guitarist David Sullivan. Here is a man with some pipes on him. He’s equally comfortable with a gritty rasp or a grungy yowl and adds the final piece to the headbanging awesomeness that is Red Fang. There’s a pronounced animal theme here, but lest you think they are a one trick pony, rest assured that the themes of fire, destruction, thunder and human remains are also addressed. Such things are comfortable in their familiarity.
All of the metal planets have aligned on Red Fang. If you consider yourself a fan of heavy music, it would be impossible for you to not like this record. Each track has a barbarian swagger that doesn’t ignore the fact that while we are basically evolved apes, we’re not dumb apes. Check the average Red Fang crowd maybe four beers into their set and tell me you don’t see evidence of Darwinism. Red Fang the band will definitely appeal to your primal side, but Red Fang the record shows that you can bang your head and still think with it.