The fourth studio album from Portland, Oregon irregulars Red Fang is a grungy cavalcade of heavy music idiosyncrasies and discoveries.
I started listening to Red Fang closely with their self-titled compilation (c. 2009) that put the earlier two tour EPs together and added a new song. The spirited swagger comes through in the multiplicity of influences and outputs you hear. Murder The Mountains (2011) was like that, too, and so is the new one. You never know what the next song will be like. The last studio album from Red Fang was in 2016: Only Ghosts. Fans have been on the edge for this one and they are going to be pumped when they hear it.
There are thirteen tracks on the album including an on-ramp and two shorter bits. Want to know what the album is like? Here is a summary. From “Two High” we get: “Whatever you think I am / think again / whatever you thought I’d be / ain’t me.” That is the guiding principle at work on Arrows.
There are noisy transitions and peculiar wobbles here and there mixed in with the more linear compositions. The music pushes hard on tracks like “Anodyne” and on songs like “Fonzi Scheme” the construction is more laid back – still heavy, of course, but told at more of a stoner pace. “Why” is solemn and creepy while “Funeral Coach” is unexpectedly light hearted and “Dr. Owl” is more gruff than wise. I think you see what I mean. Be ready for anything and that is what you’ll get. They’re not coasting on this album. Recommended.
Arrows is out now and available everywhere. Red Fang has a big tour coming up including a stop at Psycho Las Vegas in August.
The new album from the Melvins features the lineup from the early days and thirteen tracks of rarified rock weirdness/goodness.
When you speak aloud the name Melvins the response you get is either instant radical awareness or confusion. There isn’t a lot of middle ground. I saw them at the Louder Than Life festival a couple years ago. They got slotted on the far-flung stage (you know the one I am talking about if you’ve ever been to that festival) fairly early in the day and they tore it up on a short sharp set. Their performance was a highlight for me, clearly surpassing bands that came later in the bill. They play an indie, fuzzy grunge that comes at you from peculiar angles and hits you in unexpected places. There is no other band like them.
The line-up for Working With God is Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, and Mike Dillard, taking the band back to its event horizon. The creative energy in the music is the whirlwind we have come to expect on Melvins releases, which now number in the uncountable range. The opening song is “I Fuck Around,” a Beach Boys parody. Nice. “Negative No No” comes next, and it is a fuzzy grunge fest. “Bouncing Rick” picks up the pace and franticness, handing the baton off to “Caddy Daddy” for a little drone. The first dose of absolute weirdness is “Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon.” And that is weird as in Mothers of Invention weird. Time for a smoke.
The themes are can be pretty accurately assessed from the song titles, and the sensibility is blowing off steam and not a lot of deep thought. It is pulsing hard-edged rock whipped up in endless variety and with boundless creativity. The back half doesn’t slow down at all, kicking off with “Boy Mike” and clipping into the delightful sentiment of “Fuck You.” There is the spacey “The Great Good Place” and “Hot Fish,” the longest song of the set that can be understood as a litany of frustration or as something else entirely. “Hund” is a B-12 shot to get you ready for the send-off, “Goodnight Sweet Heart,” which is either really funny or a total mindfuck, depending on where you are in your evening. Working With God is another raucous affair, and no mistake. Highly recommended.
The album is out now, so go scoop it up. Limited edition vinyl has sold out (at Bandcamp) but the regular is still available, and so are CDs and downloads.
French heavy stoner trio Appalooza tell stories of distress and decline in their latest long-player.
The band formed only a couple years ago in Brest, France, issuing their first album (self-titled) in 2018. That album has a grungy pulse to it, deterministically joining the informal revival of that bygone time. With many desert-scented colors whirled into the song writing, the album is very listenable.
The new music has a crisper presence. It is not as murky in the mix and has generally sharper edges. There is still strong, sometimes overpowering, grunge reflection throughout, and the desert feel runs deeper this time. According to the Bandcamp page, the band is Sylvain (vocals and guitar), Vincent (drum), and Tony (bass), with additional mystery contributions.
The first song on the album is “Storm,” and it has a muted opening after an initial distant ethereal vocal. I am repeating myself in my head, so let me lay it down here: this is a grunge album. The ghost of Layne Staley can be heard clearly in “Reincarnation,” perhaps the most direct Alice In Chains homage, although there are many. Nearly every track, in fact. The band does tell you this in the descriptive material on their social media pages, mentioning AIC specifically as an enduring influence. They mean it.
Looking back from the end of the set, there is more here than a retreading of popular 1990s genre music. Traditional music influences from the Mediterranean (and Middle East) add depth to the pressing guitars, and the song structures, especially on the second half of the album, stretch out to test and expand the borders of the band’s compositional universe. Living in their own space and telling their own stories, Appalooza brings a new perspective forward in the cloak of the venerable past. Recommended.
The Holy of Holies is out now. CDs, vinyl, and downloads can all be snapped up at Bandcamp.
Kabbalah are brewing a psychedelic elixir in their cauldron of dreams and it is called The Omen.
The trio from Pamplona, Spain creates music that is a fascinating amalgam of contemporary fuzzy doom matched to a seventies-era rock passed through a grungy sifting machine where unexpected elements latch on, including beautiful melodic vocals and eerie themes and harmonies. The band has released a few EPs, as well as the full-length album Spectral Ascent (2017), leading up to the new one, The Omen.
The album is described in the band’s press release in part as an “occult rock grimoire where sticky melodies, funerary riffs and haunting vocals come together.” All of these things are true. I can think of a couple of bands from the past that appear to be clear influences on Kabbalah, but I have never heard anything quite like the music they make so let’s set those other names aside.
Some of the songs have a sharper edge, like the opener “Stigmatized” with its gravelly guitars, and “The Ritual,” which comes across more directly serious and dramatic. Much of the music is very laid back and hypnotic, with clearer seventies-inspired guitar tones and lovely, lilting vocals, as in “The Night Comes Near.” The echoing whispers and urging rhythms in “Labyrinth” come back to you at night when you are falling asleep, and the closer, “Liturgy,” is convincingly summative. You can feel the living desert infused in the notes of this music, and you when you close your eyes as the album plays you come to know the spirit of the ceremony.
If you rotate this album into your listening queue your life will be better. Recommended.
The digital for The Omen is at Bandcamp, Rebel Waves Records (an imprint of Ripple Music) has the CD and vinyl, and you can get a cassette from Stoner Witch Records.
The Baltimore Doom Metal scene gets another big dose of darkness from the debut album of Serpents of Secrecy.
The band had started this album in 2017, but the work was put aside after the shocking death of bassist Rev. Jim Forrester. Some of the music had already been recorded, and Serpents of Secrecy came together to finish all the work up and make sure it was not lost to history. The band for the album is Rev. Jim Forrester (bass), Todd Ingram (guitar), Chuck Dukehart III (drums), Mark Lorenzo (vocals), and Steve Fisher (guitar).
The underlying sound and vibe is classic metal in many ways and there are some songs that might have been played on the radio back when there was radio. There is a pervasive grungy feel, including the vocals which have a 1990s Seattle flavor to them in their cleaner incarnations. There is a plaintive emotion hovering around the music even when it crosses into a light literalness – that is one of the elements that makes this feel like a Doom album in the face of more straight-forward Metal.
“Ave Vindicta” opens the set and establishes that Doom tone I was talking about with throbbing feedback and slow, heavy riffs. “Heel Turn” is a more mainstream Metal song, and “The Cheat” is almost a ballad up front, with a melancholy lead guitar in the middle and a heavy finish. Bass lines are prominent on many of the songs, and well-placed sharp guitar remembrances glide in and out like ghosts. There are up-tempo crushers in here too, like “Warbird’s Song” and “Broke The Key” (one of my favorites on the album). It all comes to a close with a raucous sermon, “In The Lock.” This is an excellent album filled with variety and imbued with a style not often present in new music these days. Recommended.
Ave Vindicta is available on Halloween. Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up, and check out the band’s Big Cartel store for other merch. Links below.