There are certain bands in our field (or at least toe the line of Stoner Rock) that we can immediately identify as good. Kyuss is one. Truckfighters is another. So is Monster Magnet. But, occasionally, a band hits the scene that completely puzzles us. Because for every great Stoner Rock band, there are one hundred more that insist on simply riding a riff for 20 minutes at a time. And then there’s a small handful who show moments of greatness. Colour Haze, for example, has given us plenty to write about.
Red Fang perplexes us. Perhaps best known for their hard-driving, Stoner Rock-influenced “Prehistoric Dog,” the Portland, OR-based band has produced a series of great songs over the years. What has left us scratching our heads, however, is the fact that the band struggles to write albums. Records like their eponymous album are spotty at best, leaving plenty to be desired.
A Deeper Look at Red Fang
This leads us to a question: Is Red Fang good? To answer this, we took an in-depth look at their discography.
Although 2009’s Red Fang starts with “Prehistoric Dog,” the rest of the album struggles to live up to this high point. Red Fang starts with four excellent tracks, and then the album descends into forgettable track after forgettable track. “Bird on Fire,” for example, is an experimental blend of Punk, Thrash, Stoner Rock, and the result is a jarring roller coaster that often feels like its support beams are buckling. Red Fang could have been an incredibly impressive EP (on the same level as Valley of the Sun’s The Sayings of the Seers), but the band reached too far too fast. What’s equally conflicting is that the band is immediately charming. One look at their “Prehistoric Dog” music video proves that the band doesn’t take itself seriously and that it has a sense of humor.
Murder the Mountains
But then, in 2011, Red Fang released Murder the Mountains, one of our favorite albums from the 2010s (if you’ve never heard the Deluxe Version, bonus track “Over the Edge” could be a radio single). Murder the Mountains is remarkably consistent. Although not every song is worth writing home to mom about, the album is peppered with standout tracks, from “Wires” to “Hank is Dead” to “Painted Parade” to “Human Herd.” After an album as tiresome as Red Fang, Murder the Mountains was an absolute triumph, managing to reach No. 25 on the US Top Heatseekers.
Whales and Leeches
Then, while still riding the wave of the sophomoric breakout, the band released Whales and Leeches. Whales and Leeches sounds like a polished version of Red Fang—they’ve smoothed out some of the jarring pieces—but without any of the standout tracks. The one gem in the entire 11-song album is “Blood Like Cream.” At this point in their history, we wondered: Is Red Fang a fluke? By this point, the band had released three albums of material. A handful of songs were incredible, but the majority were experimental tracks that weren’t worth playing. Interestingly, Whales and Leeches peaked at No. 66 on the Billboard 200, but the album was relatively panned by critics—and rightfully so.
Our questions were answered in 2016 with Only Ghosts. Only Ghosts took their galloping Punk influences and thick, Stoner Rock riffs, and weaved them together with a few catchy melodies. In many ways, Only Ghosts was a bolder, brasher version of Murder the Mountains—a collection of tight songs delivered at breakneck speeds. Sure, the effort could be stronger by cutting tracks like “The Deep” and “I Am a Ghost,” but the album has a few moments of brilliance.
The Monster Riff Consensus
So, is Red Fang good?
We’re going to make a bold claim here: No, Red Fang is not good. They have assembled a collection of great songs, and many of them deserve the millions of listens they have on Spotify. But part of being good is consistency. Sure, experimentation is acceptable, especially in the Stoner Rock space, but leaning hard into experiments that don’t work (like the second half of Red Fang and all of Whales and Leeches) is a bad play.
Instead of being good, Red Fang is an OK act with a handful of excellent songs. It’s a weird, unusual spot to be in, and, to be honest, we have a hard time finding another act to compare their consistency to. Bands like Truckfighters have few hits, but the rest of their music is marked by maturity and excellent musicianship—qualities that help them write entire albums.
If Red Fang can continue to follow the same course as Only Ghosts and Murder the Mountains, they may be capable of changing the course of history. If their next album is strong, we may be willing to change our opinion. They released a single in 2019—”Antidote”—so another album may be forthcoming.
Like “Prehistoric Dog,” “Antidote” has a delightful music video.