Gig Review: Red Fang and Wizards of Firetop Mountain, June 18th, Whelan’s

I’m going to admit I couldn’t have been more excited about this gig.

I’ve been into Red Fang for a bit over a year now, ever since I saw the video for Prehistoric Dog on the Relapse Records Youtube Channel. They instantly became one of my favourite bands; deliciously riffy stoner metal with a few tasteful glimpses of prog complexity. Somewhere between Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon, maybe.

So when I hear Red Fang have announced a Dublin date, and that date is the same date as my final exam in college? Super.

So I arrived before doors open, get my Red Fang t-shirt as soon as the merch guy comes out, and secure my place right in front of the stage. It’s then a long wait until the opening act appear.

Dublin-based Wizards of Firetop Mountain play a fairly traditional, straightforward brand of heavy metal. Good riffs, solid songwriting, some tasty lead guitar work. My only criticisms would be the of vocals that slightly operatic style of singing has never been to my taste in metal, and the vocalist started out a little ropey but warmed up to it during the set  and the bass tone, which was a little too fuzzy for the clarity needed in the bass solos. Despite these drawbacks, I was impressed; good to be reminded it’s not just black metal we’re good at in this country. Apart from the band itself’, the sound in the venue felt a little off. The lead guitar was much quieter than the other instruments; and moving closer to his side of the stage didn’t seem to do much to rectify the problem.

Red Fang came on about twenty minutes after Wizards.  By this point the venue had filled up and my knees were becoming better acquainted with the edge of the stage.

Red Fang’s set was expertly chosen though as an admitted fanboy I think all of their songs are great so perhaps I’m not the one to make that call. I will say that the two new tracks (presumably for their upcoming third album I AM EXCITE) sat nicely among more familiar material. Placing Wires and Hank is Dead back-to-back was great in terms of getting the crowd worked up; not so great in terms of keeping my ribs intact, protecting my knees from the stage, or not getting jumped on by crowdsurfers.

At this point I have to apologize for taking off my shirt; it’s pretty gross when sweaty dudes take off their shirts in the pit and rub all up against you, but it was a warm day in a dark room full of people and I needed the relief. Not getting sweaty wasn’t an option especially as I was right at the front and on at least two occasions actually got sweated on by the bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam.

This guy. I can only hope it will allow to be absorb some of his essence and become a better bassist, Axe Cop-style.

The chill Humans Remain Human Remains provided a welcome break from the chaos of the pit at my back, I was able to put my shirt back on, and the gig shifted into its final phase. Obviously they had to end with Prehistoric Dog; a sneak peek at the setlist under guitarist David Sullivan’s pedals confirmed to me this was the last song. A setlist handwritten on the back of a flyer is a perfect memento of a show, and I felt I had earned it by standing there up front all night. A fellow fan, only recently arrived to the front of the crowd, had similar designs on the set list; I saw him make a few abortive attempts to reach e across the monitors and grab it. I was damned if I was going to let some blow-in take my prize so as the last notes of Prehistoric Dog sounded I lunged forward and grabbed the corner of the paper – just as he did the same from the other direction. We both wrenched on the flyer and it came apart in our hands. A mutual shrug and a look of “them’s the breaks” passed between us. There’s probably a parable in there somewhere, but while he got by far the larger part, I think I got more of the writing, so I win.

Setlist

Something something the importance of sharing.

The band waved their goodbyes, threw their plecs into the crowd, the usual end-of-gig stuff, and took a photo of the crowd:

I think I’m to the left of the guy in the centre giving the finger to the camera.

I was in pretty poor state by this stage, so I began to head for the exit. Red Fang come on and do a quick encore, which I catch from the back of the venue. Last thing I do before I leave is make my way back over to the merch stand to see what Wizards of Firetop Mountain have to offer; a 7″ of their songs Sonic War and Dollar Hips is what I leave with (after some hassle on both ends trying to sort out the correct change).

In short; best and sweatiest gig ever. This was Red Fang’s first time playing in Ireland and hopefully the great turnout and enthusiastic crowd support will encourage to make it a regular stop on their future tours.

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