Album: Psychic Warfare
Release Date: 2 October 2015
Record Label: Weathermaker Music
Buy CD ($9.79) or digital ($9.49) from: Amazon
Clutch has come a long way since their days on a major label. They show no signs of slowing down now that they release their albums through their own label, Weathermaker Music. DCHM writer Buzzo Jr breaks down the blue collar heroes’ latest call to arms in the following review of Psychic Warfare. Be sure to check out the music video at the end of this post.
For over 20 years Clutch has built up a dedicated cult following in the DMV area and beyond with their hard hitting brand of rock n roll. Now Maryland’s favorite band is back with their eleventh album Psychic Warfare, the much anticipated follow up to the immensely successful Earth Rocker from 2013. Like their previous album, Psychic Warfare is jam packed with high energy, blues driven stoner rock that’s begging to be played loud and is sure to get your head banging.
After a short intro track entitled “The Affidavit,” where frontman Neil Fallon’s deep voice asks the listener to take a seat and “Just start from the beginning,” the album gets off to a powerful start with “X-Ray Visions” which is filled to the brim with groovy riffs and hard hitting drum beats. The next track, “Firebirds,” is a song with an unbelievably catchy chorus aided in no small part by Neil Fallon’s fantastic vocals. Fallon is arguably one of the most charismatic and talented frontmen in music right now, with his deep, bellowing vocals and imaginative lyrics. His singing gives every song on the record its own sense of character; its own unique feel. Clutch start showing off their blues influences on the track “A Quick Death in Texas.” The blues laden riffs give off an undeniable ZZ Top vibe, but at the same time guitarist Tim Sult manages to inject his own style into the mix, perfectly blending melodic soloing with just enough grittiness in the riffs to ensure that at the end of the day it still sounds like a Clutch song. Tracks like “Sucker for the Witch” and “Your Love is Incarceration” has bassist Dan Maines utilizing his skills by laying down some infectiously funky bass lines that work in flawless unison with Sult’s guitar work. Fallon’s aforementioned lyricism is front and center during these two tracks, with great lines such as “It goes against my Catholic upbringing, I admit it, I’m a sucker for the witch!” or “As to the charges of gettin’ it down, Hey! Before the court, how do you plead? As to the charges that are laid before me: I confess, I am guilty in the first degree!” that are prime material for the crowds to chant along with the first time these tracks are played live.
The album comes to a slow interlude with “Doom Saloon;” an atmospheric instrumental reminiscent of the western inspired tunes on Earth’s album Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method. The instrumental flows seamlessly into the beautiful “Our Lady of Electric Light.” The track is almost melancholy sounding with its slow tempos and clean melodies, and showcases Fallon’s vocal range by having him hold back his usual booming hollers in exchange for a reserved, southern croon. The tempo soon gets back into overdrive however with “Noble Savage.” Definitely the fastest song on “Psychic Warfare,” the track has the band playing at top speed with Fallon belting out lyrics like the life of his almighty beard depended on it, Sult letting solo after solo come loose, and Jean Paul Gaster beating his drum kit like it owes him money. JP’s drumming is the final piece of the puzzle that makes Clutch who they are. His drumming manages to work in influences from the area’s past music scenes such as the speedy kick pedal work found in the DC hardcore scene, and the simple yet effective beats found in gogo music. The next two tracks “Behold the Colossus” and “Decapitation Blues” continue on with the same great quality found on previous songs, with plenty of groovy riffs and foot stomping beats continuing to drive the album forward. Finally the stage is set for the closing track “Son of Virginia.” Clocking in at seven minutes in length, it’s their second longest track ever, surpassed only by the twelve minute “Dragonfly” from their Elephant Riders album which was released back in 1998. “Son of Virginia” is definitely what one would call an epic; starting out with a clean, southern tinged guitar line working in unison with Fallon’s ever so powerful voice that soon builds up into a tumultuous cascade of riffs and deep bluesy bellows, leaving us with the parting words of the album repeated as if it were a form of mantra: “Truly we are living in an age of wonder.”
While I think this album falls a bit short of Earth Rocker in terms of overall memorability, Clutch’s newest output is still one of the best records I’ve heard all year, from a local band or otherwise. Whether you’re already a fellow Clutch fan or this is your first time hearing about them, I highly recommend this to you either way. I can say with absolute certainty that I’m going to have Psychic Warfare playing on repeat for a good amount of time. And then probably Clutch’s entire discography. Pick up Psychic Warfare and turn up those speakers, because you’re in for a damn good time.
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