The music is kind of deceptively dense, due to its riffy nature, low vocals and raw earthy production, which may appear monotonous at first but can reveal hidden depths and great variety to those who persist, so its somewhat of a grower and may take a few listens to fully get into. Then again, with that being said it is more instant than their previous album. Really; its worth giving it that little bit of extra attention as the music is all very strong and interesting, even it if it doesn’t always jump out at you as immediately.
Stylistically, the album sees the band evening up their sound into a more cohesive whole. On previous records, they would have separate categories of songs, from more melodic cleaner tracks, to sludgy numbers, to slow Doomy numbers. On their debut for example, you could hear two different Red Fang songs and think they were from two completely different bands. On this album they mix all their styles together on each song, so tracks like ‘This Animal’ and ‘Every Little Twist’ and the brief punky Title Track are particularly interesting to listen to, and provide variety without making you sit up and ask “is this a different band?” – You can get a whiff of Blues, Hardcore or Doom all in the one track at times.
For me, the two strongest tracks are the opening two tracks, the excellent opener ‘Doen’ which contains the album’s best riff, and the catchy single ‘Blood Like Cream.’ Another highlight is the hypnotic seven-minute album centerpiece ‘Dawn Rising,’ which has some of the best vocals on the whole album.
Overall, Whales & Leeches is an interesting addition to the band’s catalogue and a logical next-step in the evolution of their sound. Its a solid album and if you usually enjoy things in this general area of the musical spectrum its worth investigating. If you are an existing fan, I suspect if you liked the track ‘Dirt Wizard’ from their previous record, you’ll really enjoy this one. If you haven’t heard the band before, but like bands like Mastodon, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Dozer or Baroness this is something you may be interested in. Its not actually all that similar to any one of those band, but it is loosely in the same ballpark as all of them.