Red Fang – The Bowery Ballroom – December 11, 2013
If you knew the world was going to end in the next five minutes, what would you do? After seeing Red Fang last night at The Bowery Ballroom, I’m pretty sure my go-to answer has just become: “I’d play ‘Prehistoric Dog’ at full volume and rock out.” It was the song with which they chose to end their concert, something they tactfully announced before jumping into it, letting everyone know they could expend every last drop of energy they still had into a circle pit that spun around at tornado-like speeds.
Whatever genre you might tack onto Red Fang—heavy metal, hard rock or stoner rock—it’s a given that the band is loud. But how they do it goes beyond just playing at a high volume (although they do that too). The true power behind this type of loud has to do with how freaking tight they are, something best observed in a live setting. It’s almost like a machine how rhythmically on they are. The constant rumble of Aaron Beam’s bass notes felt like an earthquake. Behind him, drummer John Sherman sprayed out snare hits and fills like a machine gun. Between those two, guitarists David Sullivan and Bryan Giles, with their combined bearded charm of Norse gods of war, switched off searing riffs that cut through the chaos like a hot knife through butter. Occasionally the entire band hit all at once and it felt like a knockout punch. While at other times it was more like a quick flurry of fists. Red Fang will hit breakdowns that could throw even the mellowest of fans into a head-banging fit, then turn on a dime and mix up the time signature to something slower for a few moments, letting your head-banging euphoria slip into inevitable instances of “whoa, now I’m dizzy.”
It all kind of feels like Armageddon, specifically in the cartoonishly heavy-metal way that they say killed off all the dinosaurs. There are meteors flying in, volcanoes erupting and fire everywhere, and the dinosaurs are all freaking out and running around. Red Fang are just like that. They’re one of the few bands that can get away with introducing songs by saying something like, “Here’s one about getting fucked by sharks underwater.” And then when they played it, I actually thought, “Yeah, I could see how that song is about that.” That’s what it means to be loud, and it’s a beautiful, glorious thing. —Dan Rickershauser