Home Read Albums Of The Week: Red Fang | Arrows

Albums Of The Week: Red Fang | Arrows

The Portland sludge slingers deliver another power play with their fifth full-length.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “I like the idea of the record starting in a way that doesn’t make any sense at all for a Red Fang record.” That’s vocalist/bassist Aaron Beam talking about Take It Back, the opening “sintro” — part song, part intro — of their fifth album Arrows. “It reminds me of a time before people listened to music digitally—and they listened to full albums,” drummer John Sherman adds. “There were often cool, spooky intros — like fuckin’ Dio albums and shit. There are some weird sounds at the beginning to get you in the mood before it blasts off.”

And blast off it does. After the woozy opening salvo of Take It Back, Arrows launches into a super-rock trifecta of what Red Fang does best — from Melvins-esque power dirge Unreal Estate into the anthemic title track into up-tempo banger My Disaster. Yeah, it’s been more than four years since 2016’s Only Ghosts, but your favorite beer-crushing, zombie-killing, air-guitar-contest-judging metal heroes are back in action. “This record feels more like Murder The Mountains to me than any record we’ve done before or since,” Beam ventures. “It doesn’t sound like that record, but Murder The Mountains was us doing whatever the fuck we wanted, and that’s what this is, too.” Adds guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles: “We’re definitely exploring new territory,”  “And I’m very happy about that. I wouldn’t wanna be in this band if we kept doing the same thing over and over again.”

Arrows was recorded at Halfling Studios in the band’s hometown of Portland, OR, with longtime collaborator Chris Funk, who produced Murder The Mountains and 2013’s Whales and Leeches. “Chris is a major influencer as far as the weird ambient stuff in between the songs and the creepy incidental noises within the songs,” Giles points out. “I think he definitely creates an added layer of atmosphere that we wouldn’t have otherwise.”

The title Arrows was chosen through Red Fang’s patented and labor-intensive selection process. “Of all the titles that got thrown around, that was the one everyone hated the least,” Sherman explains. “Which is the case with every record, pretty much.” Arrows has the added bonus of a proper title track, which is new territory for the dudes. “This is the first time we’ve named an album after a song that’s actually on the album,” Beam explains. “We have other albums that are named after songs of ours that are not on those albums. So this time we’re really fucking with you because we didn’t fuck with you.”

Photo by James Rexroad.

It just so happens that the title track is also the lead single for the album — the general public’s first taste of fresh Fang. “There’s some songs that are pretty clearly Red Fang on this album, and others that maybe go a little further outside of what we’ve normally done,” Beam explains. “Prehistoric Dog was clearly the song to pick for the first single from the first record. Wires was clearly the song to pick from the second record. I’m not sure there was a clear frontrunner on this album, which could be taken to mean that either all of the songs are kind of mediocre at best or there are quite a few that could qualify as the lead single. So it came down to the ones that the dudes who are making the videos liked best.”

Fans might not believe what the song Arrows is partially about. “If you’re confused by some of the lyrics to that song, that makes sense,” Beam explains. “But it makes reference to meditation. I started meditating six years ago, but I can only do it when I’m not feeling too anxious. So, when I don’t need it, that’s when I can do it.” Elsewhere, Fonzi Scheme was named after legendary Happy Days cool guy — if only because it’s in the key of his famous catchphrase, “Aaay.” Producer Funk came up with the idea of bringing in string players from the Portland Cello Project to class up the track. “I would say laziness drove that decision,” Beam deadpans. “We didn’t want to come up with any guitar melodies, so we hired someone else to do it for us.”

Meanwhile, the opening riff of closer Funeral Coach was written 11 years ago. But it took until recently for the song to blossom into its full double-entendre glory. “I was driving around and I saw a hearse that said ‘funeral coach services’ on the back,” Beam explains. “So the first thing that popped into my head was a dude with a headset and a clipboard going, ‘Alright, dudes — more tears! Five minutes in is when the tears are critical, or no one’s gonna believe that anyone cares that this person died.’ ”

In a nod to tradition, Arrows will include all the drums, bass, guitars and vocals. But it could’ve gone another way. “Our original idea was to release the album with no vocals or guitar solos,” Beam explains. “If you want the guitar solos, it’s an extra five bucks. If you want the vocals, it’s an extra 10 bucks. So basically people should feel lucky that we didn’t do that. You get to buy the whole thing all together.”

Red Fang think of it as a generous display of gratitude toward their fans. “Yeah,” says Sherman, “Thank you for buying our album, you lucky bastards.”