Red Fang may seem on the outset to be your standard all American heavy metal outfit, but I think there’s much more to them then punching guitars and growling vocals.
Murder the Mountains is the second full length from the group and a perfect follow of up to their self-titled debut. This record has riffs and catchy hooks oozing out of it like toxic waste, the kind of toxic waste that gives you comic book powers. Even as the record kicks off with “Malverde”, there’s a sense of alarming urgency that really frames the rest of the track. Within the first two minutes you’ve heard three different time signatures, and your also introduced to the growling vocals and even crunchier guitars.
The whole of Murder the Mountains sits comfortable within a standard E tuning from the guitars, a decision you don’t always see in their contemporaries. Because of this Murder the Mountains keeps you grounded in the toxic sludge, but will at points wrench you out for some electrifying solos and riffs. A perfect example of this is in “Wires”, a standout track on the album.
Murder the Mountains might not be trying to something more than face value here, but it doesn’t need to. This album is a solid and grounded rock offering with interesting vocal themes, expansive drums, and raucous riffs. Even if you’re not used to the growl and crunch of something this heavy, I implore you to give it a try, because it is a damn exciting listen.8 10
Favourite tracks // Wires
My frame of reference for this kind of music is so small that the best I can do is say Murder the Mountains sounds like something from an early Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game. It’s gruff, it’s aggressive, and it has no standout qualities worth speaking of. That’s fine. It makes for an easy listen. The foundations are solid, but there’s not much on top. The grooves are relentless, sometimes even catchy. There just isn’t that finesse. Much of the album has the muscle of a Queens of the Stone Age record, but none of the swagger.
The “Hank is Dead” solo isn’t bad, managing to step away from the dense, guitar sound that is apparently compulsory in metal bands. And “The Undertow” almost, almost sounds like something Godspeed You! Black Emperor could put out. I am reaching here though. There’s really not much to hold on to. When the growling and power chords and sextuple bass pedals are doing their thing I can’t help but phase out. It’s the musical equivalent of bodybuilders admiring themselves in the gym mirror.6 10
Favourite tracks // The Undertow
Red Fang’s 2011 release, Murder the Mountains, makes for a patchy listen for me. While this isn’t a flavour of metal I click with, there are some awesome moments from the crunchy, sludgy guitars and some stonking tracks overall.
My main stumbling block, however, lies with the vocals. “Malverde”, “Dirt Wizard”, “Into the Eye” are just a few examples where Bryan Giles’ gruff vocal style doesn’t click with me, with a touch of ‘old man shouting’ to it. It’s not a style confined to the band or this album, but it only appears intermittently here which only makes the contrast starker. “Wires” sees Aaron Beam take over on lead vocals and the change is welcome, with a solid hook, great instrumentation and a breakdown that hits a sweet spot midway through the track.
Instrumentals have a fair amount of variation too, and the likes of “Throw Up” and “The Undertow” sit into a thick, sludgy, down-tempoed drone and stay there for 5+ minutes. This divides me too, with the former kicking up a nice noise I can get along with while the latter loses me in its expanse of chugs. Meanwhile, “Hank Is Dead” and “Number Thirteen” both feature busy drumlines and squealing guitars that are far more my speed.
Ultimately, Murder the Mountains probably isn’t my bag which makes me tough to please. There are moments here that I’ve enjoyed listening to and for fans of the genre, this is probably right up their street. As it is, however, I struggle with a good portion of the vocals and instrumentals and will be unlikely to return to the album as a whole.6 10
Favourite tracks // Wires
Hank is Dead