Hooded Fang makes a sinister-sounding garage rock. The band has many of the hallmarks of the late ‘60s garage rock/Nuggets compilation aesthetic but there is an evil running through these songs, a malevolence lying just underneath that really separates Hooded Fang from any of the other bands operating in this genre. I’d go so far as to call Gravez voodoo garage rock, and although the band hails from Canada, a country that you wouldn’t really associate with voodoo, their sound recalls a foggy New Orleans night. Many of the songs are downright catchy and the band certainly knows its way around a melody but there is a peculiar sound to Gravez. That’s not to say that the songs are even going for any sort of outright evil but there is a darkness and strangeness lying just beneath the surface of these songs.
Hooded Fang came into public view with their debut album Tosta Mista in 2011, which shares some of the sonic quirkiness of Gravez. Tosta Mista was a strong debut but at times it could be a bit immature lyrically and the songs were much more indebted to late ‘60s garage rock in structure. When Hooded Fang did expand on that template, though, it could be transformative. Since losing a couple band members around the time of that album’s release, the band has returned this year with Gravez and really come in to its own.
After a short intro, the title track “Gravez” sets the tone of the album and is the most immediately accessible song on the entire record. It thrashes about but Daniel Lee’s vocals are fairly calm and the band never sounds out of control. He sings, “So many faces and they’re all the same” as ghastly backing vocals respond “Are you looking at me?” The song is very catchy but also very creepy and brings to mind the type of existential crisis that would occur if one were to actually see a ghost. Lead singer Daniel Lee’s vocals can sound like a combination of Julian Casablancas and Ezra Koenig, with a dash of the crooning Jim Morrison brought to rock music with the first two Doors albums. “Ode to Subterrania” is a bouncing, quirky tune about living in a basement, which is a sentiment most twenty-somethings fresh out of college without a job prospect can certainly relate to. The song has a bright lead guitar tone throughout that sounds slightly similar to that of ‘60s band Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men” but the rhythm is more reminiscent of Crazy Rhythms-era Feelies.
“Bye Bye Land” is a hauntingly beautiful track, structured over an effected acoustic guitar on top of which Lee croons, his reverbed “oohs” giving the song a purgatorial sadness. The song is soaked in a sea of regret. “Wasteland” has an almost Caribbean guitar lead accented by a counter rhythm on the bass as it sprints toward its finish. “Sailor Bull” propels forward as psychedelic guitars simmer in and out of the ether. “Trasher” could almost be an early-Vampire Weekend song in its bouncy, elastic rhythm, if Vampire Weekend ditched the polos, covered their songs in murk, and started practicing witchcraft. The song is a standout and could easily be a hit single if the earth were condemned to a thousand years of darkness.
Gravez has all the hallmarks of garage rock but the songs are very much Hooded Fang’s. They capture an eccentric style in a similar way to the Cramps without the ‘50s rock homages. None of these comparisons really do the sound of Gravez enough justice and if you are a fan of garage rock than you should check this album out for yourself. With both an intro and outro track, the album only contains eight actual songs but it proves to be an ideal length. Gravez will compel you, forcing you to look at your own mortality, and leave you feeling like you just saw a ghost.