Red Fang @ Whelans | Live Review

Red Fang + Wizards of Firetop Mountain @ Whelans 
25 June 2013 - Dublin, Ireland

Tuesday nights are notorious black holes for musicians visiting Dublin City: A statement that an unknown American country singer drawling out world-weary songs to a handful of souls looking for redemption at the bottom of a pint glass in the pub adjacent to Whelan’s Music Venue will surely attest tonight? Whatever the reason is—the lack of an urge to step outside the drone of a weekly routine; the effort of travelling from outside the bounds of Dublin—unless you’re a band that strokes the ego of the mainstream or has a sizeable following underground, you will be swallowed by the black hole, never to return again. In light of this and due to an under-estimation of the band’s Irish fan-base, the debut on Irish soil of Portland, Oregon’s Red Fang seemed doomed. But as time passes by, what was initially a sparse crowd gathered outside the venue has, quite surprisingly, turned into a hungry queue eager to hear what this grizzly group has in store.

...Red Fang removes us from the realities of a Tuesday and transposes us to a sweat-drenched Friday night where no holds are barred.

2011 was the year that Red Fang really stepped up and announced their arrival as a force to be reckoned with. With the release of ‘Murder the Mountains’—the band’s first LP for Relapse and second in total following their 2009 self-titled debut—Red Fang’s raucous sludge ‘n’ roll displayed song-writing acumen not unlike prime Queens of the Stone Age. That is, of course, if Josh Homme had suckled for inspiration at the hairy teat of the Melvins and ‘Meantime’-era Helmet. The songs were catchy, blue-collared rawk written with no ulterior motives; just weather-beaten musicians riffing hard and singing straight from the pit of their stomachs. And maybe this is the reason why Red Fang connect with people and draw such a diverse crowd tonight. First up, however, are Wizards of Firetop Mountain who take a couple of songs to let loose, but when they do the band’s Budgie-esque NWOBHM paired with up-tempo doom is a decent starter, even if their set ends without warning.

Hauling their own gear onto the stage, there are no airs and graces surrounding the four members of Red Fang. After their pre-gig ritual of shaking hands with each other ‘Bird on Fire’ lands with a bang and from here, Red Fang removes us from the realities of a Tuesday and transposes us to a sweat-drenched Friday night where no holds are barred. The vocal trade-offs between bassist Aaron Beam and guitarist Bryan Giles are packed with grit and spit, melody and maul, and as ‘Wires’ and ‘Hank Is Dead’ whip the crowd up into a tailspin, the volume of cheers that greet the end of each passing song grows louder and louder. On record Red Fang excel at finding the balance between loose, quaking grooves and taut rhythmic jives but such moves when heard booming through PA are much more impactful, especially during the early-outings of ‘Dirt Wizard’, ‘Number Thirteen’ and a wall-rattling rendition of ‘Malverde’. ‘Humans Remain Human Remains’ offers a respite by dropping tempos to a Sleep-like crawl, and by the time the last notes of ‘Prehistoric Dog’ snarls, the small stage has been invaded by a string of stage-divers (even the embarrassing back-packed kind) and sweat drips profusely from all and sundry. Returning to a wall of roars for an encore, ‘Throw Up’ is delivered with swagger by a humble band that appears legitimately shocked by the reception afforded. With album number three almost ready to drop and the rapturous response from the Dublin crowd tonight, Red Fang’s murderous trek of up the metal mountain looks set to charge onwards without losing any steam. This is a live band worth rooting for, even on a Tuesday night. (9/10)  

Words & Photos: Dean Brown

Dean Brown is a metal scribe based in Ireland. He is currently a contributing editor to the North American cultural magazine Popmatters and he regularly throws words for a number of other reputable loud noise publications such as metal,,,, amongst others. He has a strong affinity for music that shakes souls and leaves debilitating tinnitus in its wake and such obsession has left him financially and medically crippled, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Follow Dean on twitter @reus85