Consistency is surely the most elusive of attributes in the music industry today. All too common is the formula of stunning debut followed swiftly by the career ending left field sophomore effort consisting of covers and B-sides.
With so many bands being dropped, or disbanding long before the soul searching eponymous return to form allows them to ‘forge their own sound’, fans are left little choice but to forsake loyalties in the hope of discovering their next musical high further afield. No such worries for fans of Californian veterans Clutch.
Trying to define the underground Gods is like taking on one of those voluminous gopher whacking fairground attractions: just when you think you’ve got ‘em pinned, they pop up somewhere else, grinning and illusive as ever. Roughly definable as four guys firmly grounded in deep southern trash rock who took a whistle stop tour round musicdom, they bring back influences ranging from the obvious (Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin) to the downright sublime (Primus/Frank Zappa).
Displaying monster riffs, pure energy as well as some seriously well constructed low key numbers, their sixth studio release Blast Tyrant plays from start to end as that perfect rock album you’d always dreamt of hearing but never quite found.
The keystone to the band is most certainly vocalist Neil Fallon. Nothing short of a bona fide genius, the man has a voice that can trickle down as sweet as honey and suddenly explode into the growl of a bear awoken half way through hibernation. The seamless combination of rough with smooth is what gives the singer one of the most distinctive, impressive and beautiful voices in rock.
Meanwhile Paul Gaster is humble enough to keep things chugging along subtly but knows when it’s his time to shine with awesome rhythms simply oozing from his sticks. On the six string, Tim Sult mixes old school rock lead with crunching riffs layered beyond recognition to create the sort of tone that engineers dream of.
Profits of Doom is an ample showcase for the quartet, and sounds to be straight out of the Pure Rock Fury sessions, with tight blues guitar wailing and riffing away along side Fallon’s ever obscure lyrics. The Mob Goes Wild develops a somewhat tighter, punchy sound whilst tackling the topic of US military losses in Iraq with bitter sarcasm.
Lyrically, the album is a mix of psychedelic ethereal references coupled with a plenty of political and anti war sentiments, leading one to get the feeling Fallon and his mates are perhaps not as patriotic as ol’ George W. would like either: “Everybody move to Canada, smoke lots o’ pot, Everybody move to Canada right now!”
Army of Bono is Jimi Hendrix jamming with the Black Crowes, while Regulator and Ghost explore new avenues of instrumentation for the alt rock stalwarts. Dobro’s acoustic wizardry from Sult see the former of these develop into a six minute epic that builds into a wall of sonic chaos.
You will not understand this album unless you allow hear it. Only by allowing the rock opera to penetrating your skull in its entirety will you be able to shatter the illusions of what makes a great rock album and render your preconceptions useless. If your really want me to force them, kicking and screaming, into a box, Clutch could at worst be classed as an altrockprogmetalorchestra – watch out though, visionaries never rest on their laurels…