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Key Tracks: “Malverde,” “Throw Up,” “The Undertow”
Metal isn’t supposed to be nice; it’s supposed to grab you by the balls, spit in your face, and slap you around a bit. If metal took on a human form, it would probably resemble a burly lumberjack with a scraggly beard and a collection of skull tattoos on both arms. He’s drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and waiting for someone to look at him the wrong way.
Oddly enough, this accurately describes most of the members of Portland’s own Red Fang.
These West Coast rockers aren’t new to the music scene. Their self-titled debut may not have made a huge splash, but with a single like "Prehistoric Dog" (complete with a LARP parody video), there was no denying that this band had to be the demon love child of Kyuss and Motörhead.
Although not as feral as its predecessor, Red Fang’s sophomore effort Murder the Mountains still packs a powerful punch to the gut.
The album opens with the trudging intensity of “Malverde,” complete with growling, “grizzly bear” vocals and the groans of lo-fi guitars. The beat is slow and deliberate, just like the ascent to the top of the mountain. It plays like a heavy metal expedition to the summit.
Vocal duty trade-off on tracks like “Wires” and “Number Thirteen” provide refreshing variety. On “Wires” especially, the cleaner vocals help to relinquish some of the heavier overtones. This balance is reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age’s early work but with more bite.
If we’re still climbing the metaphorical mountain, “Throw Up” serves as the anthem for the ultimate conquest. Dueling guitar riffs snake around machine-gun drum work. Alternating gruff and gorgeous vocals duke it out for the title of “king of the mountain.” Or the mountain could just be an impressive pyramid of beer cans on a Friday night. It’s really a matter of perspective.
The explosive ending to “Throw Up” almost puts the album in danger of being just a little too full of itself. Thankfully, the southern rock throwback track “Number Thirteen” comes in with hip-shaking swagger. It’s more of a head-bobber than a head-banger, but the playful break is welcome.
“Into the Eye” hits below the belt, reminding the listener that Murder the Mountains is still a metal record. The track could also be seen as an introduction to the powerful, somewhat medieval epic “The Undertow.”
Here, our heroes sit at the Round Table of Metal holding a meeting of the High Court. The guitar and bass sound like a gong in the distance, ticking away the time before the last battle. The guitar solo soars out of the muck and rings like a bell. It’s just as epic as it sounds.
Murder the Mountains is a crowning achievement both for Red Fang and metal in general. The raw, animalistic sound that may have alienated non-metal fans is smoothed over ever so slightly. It’s sleek, but still heavy. Consider this record a more sophisticated brand of stoner-metal.
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