The American stoner rock and metal scene has grown from an amorphous mist to something of a prolific beast, roping in influences from doom and sludge as numerous bands rose to fame. From the legendary hails of Sleep to the roaring thunder of The Sword, Oregonian quartet Red Fang have carved a place for themselves alongside their contemporaries. First making their mark with breakout “Murder the Mountains” in 2011, Red Fang have come ready to rock with the gritty depths of their latest studio album “Arrows.”
Although Red Fang has only four full-length albums to their name, the band has kept busy since their inception in 2005. Their discography is studded with a number of EPs and splits, filling the void between studio albums with smaller releases and touring. With five years since the release of “Only Ghosts” in 2016, “Arrows” arrives to show off the band’s confident evolution and deliver a much-needed dose of hook-laden haze. Armed with a collection of songs which more than deliver on their reputation, “Arrows” is a natural follow up to “Murder the Mountains” in both spirit and ambition. While its 13 tracks may at first seem like an insurmountable summit, the album still clocks in at under 45 minutes long, delivering its message without overstaying its welcome.
“Arrows” is proof that stoner metal is far more versatile than simple distortion and thick bass, with Red Fang serving up a listening experience that promises to excite and enthrall at every turn. Songs including “My Disaster,” “Two High,” and “Anodyne” pack on the octane without giving up any of the carefully crafted production. With disembodied vocals floating in a sea of biting riffs, the repetitive “Anodyne” is a forerunner for the album’s most anthemic hit and a perfect lead-up to the album’s climax. And for each of these blistering pick-me-up thrillers there is a slower, grittier sonic offset. The darkened sludge of “Unreal Estate” offers an enticingly ethereal journey through the unforgiving night, similar to the comforting dirge of title track “Days Collide.” Pensive in nature, the latter offerings settle Red Fang‘s roots deep into a number of styles without losing their bright charm.
From the chaotic discord of opener “Take It Back,” Red Fang sets the listener up for a complete listening experience that is best enjoyed in full. Taking “Arrows” from front to back in a single setting gives the listener an opportunity to experience the payoff from each delectable hook, as well as the mounting tension which releases at the album’s exciting midpoint. Assisting in the overall flow of the album are two bite-sized pieces of dynamite, “Rabbits In Hives” and “Interop-Mod” coming in at less than two minutes each but bringing the heat. The connectedness of one track to another is enhanced by the production, which remains incredibly consistent throughout for a comprehensive flow. The drums in particular, some of which were recorded in the bottom of a pool, keep the energy on “Arrows” well within the realm of larger-than-life.
When it comes to brilliance and an unexpected twist, one needs look no further than the colossal thriller “Fonzi Scheme.” Stuffed with thrills and unexpected instrumental twists, the aura of “Fonzi Scheme” paints an absolutely villainous picture that borders on the cinematic. From the irresistible opening hook through the sinister tapestry woven with the addition of strings from the Portland Cello Project, this song is simply bulletproof. The only drawback of having a track so tremendous so far from the album’s end is that each of the subsequent songs feels smaller in comparison. Despite the catastrophic and apocalyptic thunder of “Worlds Collide,” it fails to fill the gaping chasm left by its predecessor. “Why” touches on echoing threads of melancholy, helping “Arrows” along towards its conclusion from its irrefutable climax, but never reaches that same level of elation.
Above all else, “Arrows” strikes a balance between the naturally enjoyable elements of stoner rock and a more lighthearted approach to its presentation. There is no doubt “Arrows” is a serious endeavor resulting from a wholehearted passion for the craft, but Red Fang’s approach is vibrantly genuine. Long known for their humorous music videos, this authenticity seeps into the music to the point one can’t help but headbang and pull out their air guitar when the tempo kicks up a notch. “Arrows” can be deconstructed for its value in songwriting and ambitious approach to stoner metal, but at the end of the day it’s a fun album with fantastic replay value best enjoyed with a smile on one’s face.
Release Date: June 4th, 2021
Genre: Stoner Metal
- David Sullivan / guitars
- Bryan Giles / guitar, vocals
- John Sherman / drums
- Aaron Beam / bass, vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Take It Back
- Unreal Estate
- My Disaster
- Two High
- Fonzi Scheme
- Days Collide
- Rabbits In Hives
- Dr Owl
- Funeral Coach
From the depths of distorted bass to high-octane aggression, Red Fang's latest studio album "Arrows" is a thrilling collection that pushes the band's ambition and artistic vision to the next level.