Murder The Mountains, by Red Fang
Suggested by Alex Hill
You’ve a choice with your chips: jumbo sausage, or two normal sausages?
Some clarity for you: as with all chip shop sausages, the jumbo sausage is exactly double the size a the normal sausage, and exactly twice the price. There’s a smidge more sausage meat in the jumbo, as the normal sausages have twice the “ends” and thus twice the taper points. All choices are cooked impeccably.
My view, and therefore the correct answer, is that you take the two normal sausages.
My reasoning? The best part of the chip shop sausage is the end section, where the innards and skin pucker to form a deliciously crispy bellybutton of meat. Thus, if given the choice between four ends and two ends, four ends is the only sane selection.
I enjoy the “ends” of a lot of foods, admittedly those in the filthier wing of the nutritional pyramid. The ends of a KitKat are more chocolatey than the middle, the ends of a pack of salt and vinegar crisps are almost eye-wateringly flavoursome, the last remnants of a Pot Noodle are spicy saucy slurpy goodness, and the end of a Cornetto cone is likely the ice cream version of the Face of God. There’s a lot to be said for the ends of things.
With Murder in the Mountains, it seems that Red Fang really love the ends of songs. So much so, they filled the entire album with climaxing crescendos and false finishes.
Red Fang are an American stoner rock band with a sixteen-year pedigree. They specialise in sludgy, whirling rock-stroke-metal songs that are a little too flailing, a little too grimy, a little too flabby, and a little too changeable. Other than that, there’s a lot to enjoy.
Murder the Mountains is their second album, and immediately I’m irritated by track one. Malverde is a picture postcard of all my complaints above. The overdriven distortion serves to muddy the sound, there are constant changes to time signature that make settling impossible, and there’s a sense of panicked concentration to the whole affair, as if the band suspect they are not quite up to delivering the beats they are laying down so are maintaining a fierce flop-sweat of tongue-out concentration to bluff their way through it all.
There are things to enjoy here. The vocalist does a fine impression of Neil Fallon of Clutch, and the guitar feels doom-laden and pendulous. Track two, Wires, has a stadium rock feel, with a pregnant and promising guitar line. The Undertow has a swirling sense of foreboding, as if the music will drag you down and suck the air from you, and my standout Hank Is Dead is a pacey romp that’s entertaining for two minutes and thirty-six seconds.
It’s just the “ends” issue that bugs me. Maybe it’s a product of the fuzzy sound, but it feels like every section of every song is the penultimate eight bars before the music fades. It’s as though the band start the songs in full-on finish-the-song mode, where everyone is slightly tweaked and sloppy, driving the music to a big brassy finish. It leaves the listener breathless with anticipation, stuttering through the songs as they teeter on the edge without committing. It’s musical waterboarding.
Murder the Mountains gets 6/10. Close, but no jumbo sausage.