Clutch’s tenth studio album, Earth Rocker, was critically acclaimed and deservedly so. The four piece from Maryland had fallen upon a magic formula by streamlining their songs, ditching the nonsense and getting straight to the business in hand: rock. Album number eleven therefore had a significant amount of pressure on it; could Clutch repeat or even better the successes of its predecessor?
The simple answer is “yes”, they’ve released another blinder of a record. Psychic Warfare comes close to being an Earth Rocker 2, keeping the take-no-prisoners attitude, but introducing enough new ideas for the record to stand on its own merits.
After a false start with the pointless intro track, The Affidavit, Clutch accelerate off the line with the high tempo of X-ray Visions acting as cinematic wheel-spin. Vocalist Neil Fallon waits only two seconds before blasting his thick southern-tinged voice down the microphone, which when combined with the palm-muted guitar and crashing cymbals, makes for a high-octane affair, which you can’t help but nod your head to whilst making aggressive facial expressions. Half-way through a blues inspired solo kicks in, before giving way to Fallon introducing his band mates via their signs of the zodiac. If there were any doubts that Clutch wouldn’t be able to deliver, then X-ray Visions quickly banishes these worries.
It’s a similar story across the record. The trio of Firebirds, Sucker for the Witch and Noble Savage are attitude-fueled numbers, that manage to combine Fallon’s charismatic lyrics with heavy riffing and several moments of pure venom. The intriguingly titled Behold the Colossus has a looser feel to it, letting foot-tapping rhythms take hold as the song winds through lighter and darker moments.
Despite being an inherently heavy record, there are several other interesting elements present across the album. A Quick Death in Texas features a lovely, lightly overdriven, loose riff that keeps the southern-inspired song thrumming. Your Love is Incarceration has a funky feel to it, swinging through its verses and completed by a cowbell cameo. Our Lady of Electric Light comes close to being branded a ballad and provides some respite in the middle of the album, flowing in from the gentle, if a little underwhelming instrumental, Doom Saloon.
Unusually two of the best cuts from the album come at the record’s conclusion. Decapitation Blues is vintage stoner rock that brings gigantically thick riffs, whilst the album closer, Son of Virginia, takes time to grow from a sparse blues twang into a full on cataclysm of heavy guitars and thumping drums.
Psychic Warfare does well not to be a carbon copy of Earth Rocker, but also does well not to stray too far away from what made its predecessor great. The same basic formula of high-octane, blues-inspired stoner rock permeates the record, but unlike some formulaic acts, such as AC/DC, each track has distinct characteristics and inspired ideas, helped in part by Fallon’s fantastically creative lyrics. Nearly twenty-five years into their career, Clutch seem like they are only just getting going.
RockAtlantic’s last three album reviews:
- Tesseract – Polaris (British djent pioneers come of age)
- Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine (Post-progressive atmospheres)
- Disturbed – Immortalized (The return of the alt metal giants)
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