Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Earth Rocker Gets Grounded By Clutch

There is something undeniably grounded about Earth Rocker by Clutch. The relentlessly tireless Germantown, Maryland, metal band that formed in 1990 presses stoner rock, post-hardcore, metal, and grunge into a sometimes muddy but mostly straight up hard rock album.

It's the band's tenth studio album and they feel good about it. It's tight, efficient and capitalizes on the jam aspects of the band, which they were able to map out well in the studio while still giving themselves plenty of room to improvise on stage. They are not softening. The play is more solid.

“Overall, we wanted the album to pick up the pace a little bit,” says bassist Dan Maines. “Songs developing at a faster tempo led to a very straightforward songwriting approach.”

Some of it is even indirectly influenced by Motorhead and Thin Lizzy. It was while touring with those bands that Clutch began to understand the dynamics of timeless heavy rock and apply it to their own experiences. According to guitarist Tim Sult, the songwriting happened around both tours and influences from both bands sank into the writing.

"Maybe people expected us to go more acoustic or bluesy, but this album showcases a riffs-in-your-face kind of style," Sult said. "These songs ended up being faster and a bit more rocking."

Although plenty of attention has been lauded on Earth Rocker, the title track and leader off the 11-track album is laid back in comparison to much of the album. But even if it does sound like a warmup, it still sets the tone of the album. Lyrically, Earth Rocker is all about the band but also dares people to take charge of their lives too. Nobody needs validation from someone else.

Earth Rocker is a straight up solid song, but didn't excite me when it was released as a single. The rest of the album is different. After Earth Rocker, Crucial Velocity knocks it up another gear and the band finds exactly what they want the album to be by Mr. Freedom.

Mr. Freedom is an anti-political riff-heavy track that strikes at citizen pandering and propaganda, people who exploit tragedy with legislation and empty promises. Clutch won't have any of it. And if you don't believe it, then D.C. Sound Attack smacks of sounds that any Earth Rocker fan will be familiar with and showcases drummer Jean-Paul Gaster's lock-tight percussion.

The rest of the album chugs along at an ever-increasing furious stride, with bits of riffs and solos tucked deep inside most songs. One of the few exceptions is the bluesy brooder Gone Cold. It's there that Clutch drops everything down with a drawn out weariness that takes advantage of the smokiness in singer Neil Fallon's voice.

Earth Rocker is an amazingly timeless jam-heavy dream.

Unto The Breach starts big and then barrels along with what some call hobo poetry and unique vision. Oh, Isabella is the longest track, using the time to balance Fallon's power with some psychedelic rock sections that play well to the band's ability to jam.

While some people might find The Face a bit stronger overall, it's songs like Oh, Isabella that give Earth Rocker an instant classic heavy metal feel. But that's not to say there is anything missing from The Face. It's one of many (if not all) must-have tracks off the album. Its climatic finish is perfect.

All in all, the crazy thing about the album is that it feels grounded without much of a theme or center. It's mostly tied to dreams and visions, but most of it skips along time and space with bits of the past, present, and future all interwoven — from medieval halberds to present-day politics to robot loves.

Earth Rocker By Clutch Shifts 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Fallon has said that the biggest difference in the recording session this time was that they didn't shy away from last minute overdubs. On the contrary, they had fun with them. The spontaneity of it breathed new life into several tracks before the deadlines caught up with them. It's also tighter and faster than any album before it, proving that this band has no intention of slowing down.

Released by the band's label, Weathermaker Music, Earth Rocker doesn't disappoint. The best of the album follows the first two tracks, but the album is worth every inch. Earth Rocker is up on Amazon. You can also find it on vinyl at Barnes & Noble or download it from iTunes. Clutch is already on tour, playing the West Coast in March. Show listings can be found on Facebook.
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