I was maybe a freshman in high school listening to an online radio station called Garage Monkey when a song called "Prehistoric Dog" came on. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before with the grungy, raw attitude of Melvins, sludgy sound of Mastodon, and all sitting upon a catchy foundation.
With the inclusion of producer Ross Robinson (Slipknot, Korn) and Joe Barresi (Clutch, Kyuss), the bar is already set pretty high for Red Fang's fourth album. Proportionally, the musicians contributions are most definitely more significant than an album's production team, however with a legendary duo as these just mentioned, I could confidently assume Only Ghosts would be the band's magnum opus.
I'll be blunt, I'm not big on the singles on this record. "Flies" and "Shadows" were nowhere near as dynamic as hits like "Prehistoric Dog" or "Wires." Their melodies have grown on me a bit, but they don't have same instantaneous effect as past album's songs. I also had a similar feeling with their last record, Whales and Leeches, when the flow of "Crows in Swine" and "Blood Like Cream" felt less captivating than the standard that was previously set. By this underwhelming attitude towards Red Fang's singles of their third and fourth LPs in their discography, I have my worries about their longevity and overall direction, but luckily as I'm about to explain, there's more than meets the eye.
Similar to their 2013 record, the subtleties on this record is where I actually began to very much enjoy the music. The atmospheric and experimental side of "The Smell of the Sound" has a Helms Alee stride, which is ironic because I always envisioned Red Fang influencing Helms Alee, not the other way around. Complexity shown in the ending of "No Air," vocal deliveries on "I Am a Ghost," or the drone instrumental of "Flames" also shows an impressive new territory for the band. I am a bit bummed the catchy songwriting along with the Melvins and Big Business sound isn't as abundant on this release, but there is progress on other fronts that I respect. I think it should be noted that Red Fang has always had a knack for unconventional songs dating back from their debut LP's "Humans Remain Human Remains" to their last record's "Dawn Rising."
When analyzing all ten tracks presented here, there is a mixed bag. As aforementioned, I could give or take the singles. And the same criticism I had of these current singles could be applied to "Cut it Short" or "Not for You," which are enjoyable pieces rightfully so, but appear to be vapid in comparison to dense composition such as "Throw Up" off Murder the Mountains. And funnily enough, the later tracks are the strongest. The point that I keep coming back to is that Only Ghosts is one of those phenomena albums that have more powerful material on the deep cuts rather than the radio singles.
With the knowledge and understanding of the idea that was expressed in the last paragraph, I can hope or assume that this LP is a transitional album. With the band's songwriting skills slowly fading and a stronger sense of experimentation on the rise, I hope an emphasis is placed on the moody and psychedelic material in the future as that seemed to be the highlights for this release. Contrary to my previous assumption, Only Ghosts isn't Red Fang's masterpiece, however the progress in non-conventionalities is a commendable move. Even if this album did not completely live up to the expectations I imagined, the diversity and scope of styles and structures on this record provide a likability amongst content satisfaction.