Red Fang‘s last album, the sparkling and effervescent “Murder the Mountains,” had plenty going for it (and, verily, we went a little bit mad for it ourselves), thanks to it being packed to its aural gunnells with, well, no messing about tunes. ‘Wires,’ its standout track, seemed to gather a significant amount of underground attention, thanks to an excellent tune and a genuinely funny promo video that played heavily on the fact that this was a band having a great time.
“Whales and Leeches,” the next episode in the development of this Oregon based outfit is, well, more of the same really. No that we are complaining. Far from it. If you like your sludge honed to within an inch of its life with muscular rock tunes, then “Whales and Leeches” is for you.
With the exception of the seven minute blow out of ‘Dawn Rising,’ a track that hints at an even darker future for this band, “Whales and Leeches” is a record that doesn’t hang about. Most of the tracks here come in around the three minute mark and are fairly standard fare- there’s a spring in the step of ‘Blood Like Cream,’ a statement of intent underpinning ‘Doen’ and lots of dark energy around ‘Crows in Swine’ and I get more than a hint of Orange Goblin when spinning ‘Failure.’ Josh Homme would give his last pack of Marlboro’s for the riff that leads off ‘This Animal,’ too. So far, so good then.
Well, yes. And no. On the one hand, you can applaud Red Fang‘s single mindedness- this is stripped back metal with no airs, graces or arrogance. These things, you understand, are to be applauded. However, there are obvious limitations to the ploughing of this particular furrow- although this is a darker themed record than its predecessor, “Whales and Leeches” is still a fairly straightforward sludge metal album. And therein lies the rub.
You won’t get any of the spaced out experimentalism now beloved by Kylesa for example, nor the progressive instincts hunted down by Mastodon. Some of you will doubtless argue that this is an entirely good thing but I’m wondering about what they do next. For now though, I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. “Whales and Leeches” possesses a driven intelligence and an unerring knack for bewitching melody underneath the ostensibly straight forward rock outs that make this and album and a band that is very easy to warm to. So warm to them, and it, we will.