After releasing an album in 2010 (Album) that was a straightforward, danceable slice of sweet indie pop, then following it up with an EP of rollicking garage rockers (Tosta Mista) in 2012, the Toronto quartet Hooded Fang switch things up on their 2013 album Gravez by getting leaner, darker, and noisier. Recorded mostly in bedrooms and basements, the album has a raw-and-ready sound that threatens to overload circuits and frazzle speakers, yet the group members maintain such a degree of tight control over their playing that the songs are tightly coiled bolts of energy that hit very hard. The frantic tracks like "Graves" and "Sailor Bull" that feature Lane Halley and Daniel Lee's guitars wrapping around each other like twin downed power lines, D. Alex Meeks' drums blasting off like fireworks, and April Aliermo's bass holding it all down are balanced with songs ("Ode to Subterrania," "Genes") that dial back the noise and tempo in favor of a heavy grooving, '70s German feel, and a couple midtempo songs that sound like they learned a thing or two about dynamic tension from the Pixies along the way ("Bye Bye Land," "Trasher"). Throughout it all, Daniel Lee's vocals are on the verge of distortion as he howls, cajoles, croons, and generally steals the show. His vocals were strong on previous releases, but he really ramps it up here, making it sound like he's barely hanging on as the music roils around him. It's a star-making performance that, when added to the excellent guitar work, the live-wire production, and the thrilling amount of energy the group puts into the songs and performances, makes Gravez pretty special overall. The band's mastery of various styles, moods, and sounds here is impressive, and while it bodes well for future albums, it also means that Hooded Fang have arrived as one of the most exciting indie rock/pop bands around in 2013.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra