Boise Sinks its Teeth into Red Fang


Red Fang played for keeps at Neurolux.

The music did not begin promptly at 7 p.m. In fact, it was almost 8 p.m. by the time Lord Dying started its opening set. By then, the small audience that had accumulated at Neurolux Nov. 21 began to get impatient. But by the end of the night, that same audience would be drenched in sweat and gasping for breath, the wait for the show long forgotten.

That's because Red Fang delivered the kind of melody-driven road metal show that dislodges repressed memories and causes the blind to see. It was that good.

For starters, John Sherman drummed utterly without fear, playing with confidence across rocky musical terrain that included technical, rapid fire licks and thumping valleys of slowed tempo.

A key feature of Red Fang's live performance is the way it layers melodies, sinking them into oceans of discord only to resuscitate them at the edge of the audience's attention span. When Sherman's drums colluded with Aaron Beam's hammering bass, David Sullivan's guitar rose like a ship's sail above the fog of sound to enthusiastic cheers from the front row—and applause from the back.

But the most unusual quality was how singers Beam and Bryan Giles harmonized. Songs seesawed between Giles' crisp vocals and Beam's gurgling growls, mirroring the tension between the rhythms and melodies.

The band's stage presence was as visceral as the audience's moshing. In the front rows, the crowd thrashed and swung. A few feet in front of them, Beam and Giles hopped, head banged and swung to their own music—again, with the sure movements of seasoned performers.

But Red Fang didn't do all this on its own. The audience was primed by Lord Dying and Black Tusk. Lord Dying, which relied heavily on cascading guitar solos and a metronome-steady drum beat, bridged musical contradictions by contrasting towering melodies and rolling drums.

Black Tusk, from Savannah, Ga., played a set that could have served as the score for battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Its drum-driven, head-banging, rip-roaring brand of stoner metal hit the audience like a ton of bricks, and its strong stage presence readied the crowd for the headlining act.

Boise was the final stop on the tour for these three bands. Maybe it was from exhaustion at the end of a long tour, or maybe it was from genuine appreciation of the welcome it received in Boise, but when Red Fang's set was over, the band whipped out its smartphones and took pictures of the Neurolux audience snapping photos of their own.