Red Fang
Only Ghosts
(Relapse Records)

Portland’s Red Fang have always stood out from their fellow stoner rock brethren. The band is quite notorious for its humorous videos, and that sense of fun oozes into their brand of retro-fitted hard rock. Red Fang also benefit from a somewhat unique take on stoner rock, propelled by a decidedly melodic and hard-driving current. Falling somewhere in the center of a Venn Diagram with The Sword, Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age, Kylesa, and Clutch, their style is decidedly more punk-infused than expected. Similar to their old Sargent House label mates in Indian Handcrafts, Red Fang are experts in riffs, hooks, and intelligent songwriting.

With 2013’s Whales and Leeches, the group added some more psychedelic and long-form jams to their beer-soaked hard rock formula, and that helped add more sonic heft to their already potent formula. Only Ghosts, their fourth record, sees Red Fang continuing along that road, with the album alternating between desert rock stadium rock gems and more pensive (although no less crushing) numbers. When the group let their hair down, they are easily the best in the business. “Shadows”, “Cut It Short”, and “Not For You” highlight how well Red Fang can craft the hookiest stoner metal in existence, Though opener “Flies” may take the cake for the band’s best track yet, with its speed, smoky atmosphere, and the sheer power of the riffs.

Ross Robinson is the perfect production choice for this record, as everything sounds equally mud-soaked and clear (though not clean). Robinson’s known ability with spacey, punk-y stoner (Wild Throne, Cancer Bats) certainly pays dividends here. Only Ghosts is easily the best sounding record of Red Fang’s career. Luckily, it also happens to be the most musically focused and fun as well. Aside from two minor issues (the interlude “Flames” and part of “No Air” could be cut), Red Fang are easily at their best with this album. They’ve trimmed the fat and focused on pushing themselves to the best possible version of Red Fang.

Purchase Only Ghosts here.

4-half-stars

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