Red Fang have pounded their sound out on the road long enough to know exactly what they are doing. On the band’s fifth full-length album, Arrows, the group continues to push their evolution forward, indulging in experimentations in production, with techniques like recording their drums in an empty pool. Yet rather than amplify the boom, things have become very condensed on Arrows. The fuzz and distortion is denser, and the smoothed-out vocal on the chorus of leadoff track “Take It Back” a more welcomed calm among the thunder storm.
On Arrows, Red Fang are more sludge than stoner rock. When the hooks are at their sharpest, they create something akin to what the Foo Fighters might sound like if they were a metal band, their vocal melodies as ready for mainstream radio as they’ve ever sounded. “My Disaster” is driven by an uptempo rumble, while “Two High” has enough rock boogie in its groove to make it catchy—which, while not exercised nearly often enough in heavy music—is certainly possible, as this song proves. There is a darker, Melvins-like feel to “Anodyne” and more of an early Baroness-style, meat-and-potatoes, no frills sludge stomp to “Fonzi Scheme,” which is certainly the album’s best song title. The group doesn’t necessarily rock the boat too often, but as the band takes a darker turn on “Days Collide,” things get considerably more interesting. The throb of its dark atmosphere gives everything more room to breathe, while providing a stark contrast to the moments when they give your ears a burly beatdown when building back up.
“Rabbits In Hives” is the only real rough patch on the album, proving that punk rock is not the group’s strong suit, but even this isn’t that much of a drop-off in quality. It’s just that Red Fang are much more suited for the ’90s-grunge-meets-noise-rock vibes on songs like “Why” or the pounding, angular blitz of “Dr. Owl.” But every element here is dialed in and engineered to satisfy, whether it’s the bass tone or the vocals—which, even at their most abrasive and bellowing, always contribute something better to the overall approach. While Red Fang continue to refine their sound, they’re not necessarily attempting any radical reinvention. They simply continue to get even better at being Red Fang, and Arrows is their strongest effort to date.