Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Every Clutch record is different. Over the course of the Maryland four-piece’s nearly-25 years it has become a stready reasoning that each time out, they’re going to offer something distinct from what preceded. Often, it has felt in listening like one album was trying purposefully not to do what the one before it did, which is how one might account for the shifts between 1993’s Transnational Speedway League debut and their landmark 1995 self-titled sophomore outing, or that album and its follow-up, 1998’s The Elephant Riders, or that album and 1999’s Jam Room and 2001’s Pure Rock Fury, and so on.
Their sound has constantly evolved around a reliable-as-sunrise foundation of songwriting, and with their 11th studio offering and third to be released via their own Weathermaker Music imprint, Psychic Warfare, they manage to expand on the ideas that they brought to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — which itself was another broad turn from 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West — without completely departing the same sphere. In this culture of sequels and reboots, for Clutch to linger a bit longer in a place (sonically; they never actually rest too long in one spot geographically) that suited them so well two years ago feels justified, and for someone who’d perhaps never heard them prior to this record the experience would invariably be otherwise, but as a fan of the band, Psychic Warfare feels defined at least in part by Earth Rocker in a way that, as far as Clutch records go, is the biggest change of all this time around.
Most of that is attributable to the circumstances of Psychic Warfare‘s arrival. True, it putsClutch — the steady lineup of vocalist Neil Fallon, guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster — back on the every-other-year schedule they maintained up until the surprising four years between Strange Cousins from the West and Earth Rocker, but the reception for the last outing was such that this one seems to have materialized especially quick. Couple that with a return to producer Machine, who helmed Earth Rocker after first collaborating with the band on 2004’s Blast Tyrant, and there is plenty in common between the two outings sound-wise, in the tonal largesse of Sult‘s guitar on cuts like “Firebirds” and “Behold the Colossus,” in the arrangements and treatments on Fallon‘s vocals for “A Quick Death in Texas,” post-intro opener “X-Ray Visions,” and so on, and it becomes even easier to put Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare side-by-side.
That’s not to say the new record feels like it is meant to be be a carbon-copy of the last. It’s true that “Noble Savage” boasts largely the same thesis and a similarly speedy means of expressing it as “Earth Rocker” itself, but Psychic Warfare has its own personality, even if it has to work harder to put that across in the shadow of the magic Clutch were able to craft two years ago. The 12-track/40-minute offering is loosely tied to a narrative thread in the lyrics, which is something that Blast Tyrant also did, but is clarified here and brought further toward realization with the spoken intro “The Affidavit,” in which someone is told to tell the whole story, start at the beginning. Thus, the album front-to-back becomes the sworn statement. It’s not a concept record in the prog-rock sense, but it’s drawing a line between the songs in a way that the band never has before, concluding likewise in the theme after the hooky, brooding blues of closer “Son of Virginia” has wrapped.
A given arc isn’t really enough to wholly distinguish Psychic Warfare on its own, but that is where the songwriting, as ever, does the work for the band. From “X-Ray Visions” through “Firebirds,” “A Quick Death in Texas,” “Sucker for the Witch” and “Your Love is Incarceration,” Clutch tear into a side A that demonstrates not only a good portion of the breadth of their sound, but the craftsmanship that has made them the influential outfit they are. With Fallon‘s trademarked place-naming lyrical quirk (one could, and should, teach a college class around same) coiling around Sult‘s funked-up riffage and rested on the smooth basslines of Maines or, particularly in the case of “Firebirds” and “Sucker for the Witch,” propelled full-throttle by Gaster‘s drumming, Clutch seem to have added onto their wheelhouse at some point in the last several years, so that they seem equally comfortable belting out “Firebirds” as the immediately-following swing-laden “A Quick Death in Texas,” which veers into call and response cues that it’s hard to imagine their audience not picking up on any one of their nigh-on-constant tours and makes for a dudely high point of the first half.
More subtle is the bounce Maines brings to “Your Love is Incarceration,” a song nearly steamrolled by the momentum Psychic Warfare has built by that point, but which stands out amid all the Clutch-being-Clutch of “Sucker for the Witch” and the paired “Doom Saloon” and “Our Lady of Electric Light,” which follow. “Doom Saloon” is namedropped in “A Quick Death in Texas” as well — it may or may not be the name of their rehearsal spot; something like that — but Sult layers (or it could be Fallon and Sult both) echoing washes of guitar as an extended intro to the slowed-down “The Regulator”-style twang of “Our Lady of Electric Light,” Clutch once again finding that mysterious ground that they seem to have all to themselves somewhere between Southern heavy rock and blues that, miraculously, continues not to sound like a cliché though it’s a mode of working that, between songs like the semi-cover “Gravel Road” from 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus, “Electric Worry” from 2007’s From Beale St. to Oblivion and “Son of Virginia” still to come here, has been well-established for them. Can’t argue with results.
Can’t stop progress either, as Fallon himself once noted, and it’s true that both “Our Lady of Electric Light” and the closer expand the approach of a song like “The Regulator” such that the Blast Tyrant track is much more ancestor than blueprint these 11 years after the fact. After the quieter moment on “Our Lady of Electric Light,” they return to speedier fare with the fifth-gear “Noble Savage,” the shortest track on Psychic Warfare that’s not an intro at 2:49 and similar as noted in its no-nonsense anthemery to “Earth Rocker,” marked by the motoring riff and Fallon‘s standout chorus line, “Unapologetic lifer for rock and roll.” The subsequent “Behold the Colossus” feels similarly geared to the stage and is a highlight performance from Gaster as well as another infectious hook and arguably the smoothest transition between tracks (where one isn’t an interlude leading to the other, anyhow) as it gives way to “Decapitation Blues,” which began to surface at live shows about a year ago and, like “Your Love is Incarceration,” feels positioned to be somewhat lost but actually finds a distinct ground that’s neither repeating the moves of Earth Rocker nor purposely avoiding them — a genuine moment of progress.
As “Son of Virginia” makes ready to leave one of Psychic Warfare‘s most memorable impressions in its build-to-a-head blues rollout and highlight chorus, one can’t help but be reminded that when the aforementioned Robot Hive/Exodus landed in ’05, its sound also informed by Blast Tyrant before it — though expanded on as well with the inclusion of a full-time organist — it felt very soon between records in a way that seemed to favor the earlier outing. Psychic Warfare doesn’t have the benefit of years of feverish anticipation preceding its release, but still, against seemingly impossible odds, it holds up to its predecessor. Its ultimate place in Clutch‘s discography? Not a thing we’ll know for years. Doesn’t matter. It’s a batch of top-grade tunes from a band whose drive to deliver them is bled across its span, and it answers the question of how the band could ever possibly follow what came before it. Now the question becomes where they go from here.
Posted in Features on September 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
This weekend, Maryland heavy rock institution Clutch launch their latest US tour. That would be business as usual for the stalwart four-piece, but it also coincides with their new album, Psychic Warfare, arriving a short two years behind 2013’s landmark Earth Rocker (review here). It is their 11th full-length overall, and it I seem to link it immediately to its predecessor, that’s not entirely an accident.
To record Psychic Warfare, Clutch — as ever, vocalist Neil Fallon, guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster — returned to producer Machine, who also helmed the last outing, and they continue to meld their jam-blues approach with faster, heavier push on cuts like the leadoff single “X-Ray Visions” and “Noble Savage,” which seems a direct sequel to “Earth Rocker” in both its declarative theme and the uptempo manner in which it states and stakes its claim. That’s not to say Psychic Warfare doesn’t have its own personality. It’s not the first Clutch to draw a narrative thread between its tracks — 2004’s Blast Tyrant, which was the band’s first collaboration with Machine, touched on doing so — but it is the first to make that connection explicit, which it does in the intro “The Affidavit” and the final moments of blues-laden closer “Son of Virginia,” which continues a thread of its own of up-jumpers like “Electric Worry” off 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion and the Mississippi Fred McDowell lyric cover “Gravel Road” from 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus, both of which have become signature pieces in live shows.
And as to live shows, Fallon gets right to the heart of it when he says in the interview that follows here, “We put out records to support our tours, not the other way around.” Here are Clutch‘s upcoming tour dates:
Clutch live: Sat/Oct-03 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Revolution** Sun/Oct-04 St. Petersburg , FL Jannus Live** Tue/Oct-06 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works** Wed/Oct-07 Charlotte, NC Amos’ Southend** Fri/Oct-09 Hampton Beach, NH Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom** Sat/Oct-10 Clifton Park, NY Upstate Concert Hall** Sun/Oct-11 New Haven, CT Toad’s Place** Tue/Oct-13 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue** Wed/Oct-14 Chicago, IL House Of Blues** Thu/Oct-15 Grand Rapids, MI Orbit Room** Fri/Oct-16 Sauget, IL Pop’s Nightclub** Sat/Oct-17 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre** Sun/Oct-18 Fargo, ND Scheels Arena** – “Roughrider Ink & Iron” Tue/Oct-20 Billings, MT Shrine Auditorium** Thu/Oct-22 Spokane, WA Knitting Factory Concert House** Fri/Oct-23 Boise, ID Knitting Factory Concert House** Sat/Oct-24 Elverta, CA Gibson Ranch Park* – Aftershock Festival Sun/Oct-25 San Bernardino, CA San Manuel Amphitheater* – Knotfest Mon/Oct-26 Tucson, AZ Rialto Theatre*** w Mastodon (Clutch closes show) Wed/Oct-28 Austin, TX Austin Music Hall*** w Mastodon (Mastodon closes show) Thu/Oct-29 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Live*** w Mastodon (Clutch closes show) Fri/Oct-30 Houston, TX Bayou Music Center*** w Mastodon (Mastodon closes show) Sat/Oct-31 New Orleans, LA Voodoo Experience* * = Festival date ** = Clutch headline show, support: COC / The Shrine *** = Clutch co-headline show w/ Mastodon, special guest: COC
2015 Europe Dates: November 20 Dublin, Ireland November 21 Belfast , N.Ireland(SOLD OUT) November 23 Glasgow, Scotland November 24 Nottingham, England November 25 Bristol, England November 27 Paris, France(SOLD OUT) November 28 Cologne, Germany November 29 Hamburg, Germany December 01 Aarhus, Denmark December 02 Goteborg, Sweden December 03 Stockholm, Sweden December 04 Copenhagen, Denmark December 05 Berlin, Germany December 06 Frankfurt, Germany December 08 Amsterdam, Netherlands December 10 Manchester, England December 11 Wolverhampton, England December 12 London, England
Psychic Warfare Australian Tour 2016 Thursday 3rd March 2016 The Triffid QLD Friday 4th March 2016 The Metro NSW Saturday 5th March 2016 The Forum Theatre VIC
They’ve yet to announce the lineup for their annual holiday run, but one assumes they’ll sneak a few East Coast dates in upon returning from the UK at the end of their European tour in December. That too is business as usual for Clutch, who’ve earned so much respect over their 20-plus years not just because they preach a classic rock-and-roll-as-a-way-of-life gospel, but because they’ve been so willing to get out and actually live by such tenets. If the list of dates above wasn’t enough of a clue, they’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future, and much to the benefit of everyone who gets off their ass and shows up to see them.
In the interview here — actually it’s his third (see here and here), not counting an Obelisk Questionnaire — Fallon talks about making the record and preparing to hit the road behind it, as well as doubling as a partner in a record label for the third time with the band’s Weathermaker Music handling the release, capturing the recording process with a video documentary series and much more.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 25th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If someone were to come up to you and ask you what is best in life, I’m relatively sure the answer would be, “Clutch talking behind-the-scenes about making records.” The band has unveiled the first three installments of a series of videos about the processes at work for their upcoming 11th album, Psychic Warfare. The full-length is out Oct. 2 on Weathermaker Music and in the videos, the band talks about writing — they jam like they play — working with producer Machine again after doing so for Blast Tyrant and Earth Rocker and the work that goes into the tracks.
I’d tell you more, but Clutch do it better anyway. Here’s this off the PR wire:
CLUTCH: THE MAKING OF “PSYCHIC WARFARE” BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO SERIES POSTED
NEIL FALLON LYRIC INSIGHT SERIES CONTINUES
Clutch, the influential heavy rock band from Maryland, have posted “The Making of Psychic Warfare” Segment 1: Creation, Production, and Speculation via their Facebook page,facebook.com/Clutchband.
These video clips shot by David Brodsky and his company My Good Eye: Music Visuals, will give fans an unprecedented view into the studios, as well as insight into the thoughts and ideas behind the making of the new Clutch album “Psychic Warfare”. The footage in Segment 1 consists of interviews taken as the band started pre-production with Machine, who recorded, mixed and produced the record. Band members and Machine talk about the pre-production process while the album was being developed in Frederick MD.
The series will have 3 segments. The 2 upcoming segments, Segment 2: Austin Calling (September 14th) and Segment 3: Doom Saloon (September 28th) will continue to document with behind the scenes footage, the recording process as the band moves to Austin,Texas to record at the Machine Shop, to the last segment ending up with the band back in Frederick, MD putting the finishing touches to the record.
In addition to posting “The Making of Psychic Warfare” video series on the recording process, on alternating weeks, vocalist Neil Fallon will be posting his comments on the lyrical content and explain the meaning behind several songs off “Psychic Warfare” on Clutch’s facebook page.
Neil Fallon lyric commentary series: The Affidavit & X-Ray Visions A Quick Death In Texas Firebirds Sucker For The Witch Decapitation Blues Noble Savage
“Psychic Warfare” is the band’s eleventh studio album and will be released worldwide October 2nd via their own label Weathermaker Music. The album was produced by longtime producer Machine (Lamb Of God, Every Time I Die) and consists of 12 new tracks. Pre-order is available at Clutch’s official website pro-rock.com now. “The title ‘Psychic Warfare’ is taken from the first track, and first video we did for the record ‘X-Ray Visions” states singer Neil Fallon. “It’s a tale about an unnamed protagonist who is forced to seek refuge in a flop house motel. He is hiding from several nefarious psychic forces, the worst of which is his own sleep deprived paranoia.” The album cover was designed by renowned photographer Dan Winters.
“Psychic Warfare” track listing: 01 The Affidavit 02 X-Ray Visions 03 Firebirds 04 A Quick Death in Texas 05 Sucker For The Witch 06 Your Love is Incarceration 07 Doom Saloon 08 Our Lady of Electric Light 09 Noble Savage 10 Behold the Colossus 11 Decapitation Blues 12 Son Of Virginia
CLUTCH: Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitar Tim Sult – Guitar Dan Maines – Bass Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums/Percussion
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
News about some new Clutch? Why, yes please, and thank you. This is the first solid word I’ve seen about the next full-length from the Maryland stalwarts, whose 2013 outing, Earth Rocker (review here), was far and away that year’s best album. Titled Psychic Warfare and featuring cover art by photographer Dan Winters that has an oldschool, confrontational feel, the new outing will be released Oct 2. through the band’s Weathermaker Music imprint. Songs like “Son of Virginia,” “Sucker for the Witch” and “Our Lady of Electric Light” have been played live for some time now, but it’s always great to hear what Clutch come up with in the studio as well, the production method they take any time around — like Earth Rocker, Psychic Warfare was produced by Machine — being such a huge factor in their sound.
Here’s looking forward:
CLUTCH TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM “PSYCHIC WARFARE” OCTOBER 2ND 2015
Clutch, the influential heavy rock band from Maryland, will release its eleventh studio album “Psychic Warfare” October 2nd via their own label Weathermaker Music. The album was produced by longtime producer Machine (Lamb Of God, Every Time I Die) and consists of 12 new tracks. “The title ‘Psychic Warfare’ is taken from the track, ‘X-Ray Visions” states singer Neil Fallon. “It’s a tale about an unnamed protagonist who is forced to seek refuge in a flop house motel. He is hiding from several nefarious psychic forces, the worst of which is his own sleep deprived paranoia.” The album cover was designed by renowned photographer Dan Winters.
Clutch is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Neil Fallon, drummer Jean-Paul Gaster, guitarist Tim Sult, and bassist Dan Maines.
“Psychic Warfare” track listing: 01 The Affidavit 02 X-Ray Visions 03 Firebirds 04 A Quick Death in Texas 05 Sucker For The Witch 06 Your Love is Incarceration 07 Doom Saloon 08 Our Lady of Electric Light 09 Noble Savage 10 Behold the Colossus 11 Decapitation Blues 12 Son Of Virginia
Clutch have been pushing the boundaries that define heavy rock music since the four original members got together in high school. Clutch is an unmatched musical force that has been best described as “the quintessential American Rock Band”. They released their tenth studio album Earth Rocker via their own label Weathermaker Music on March 16, 2013. The album entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #15 giving the band their highest chart position to date.
Clutch will be touring extensively in 2015 to support the effort. A string of shows, including festival dates have been announced leading up to the release.
08/15 – GwarBQ @ Hadad’s Lake – Richmond, VA 09/04 – The Joint @ The Hard Rock Hotel – Las Vegas, NV – special guest for Primus 09/19 – The Shindig @ Carrol Park – Baltimore, MD 09/20 – The Rock Carnival @ Oak Ridge Park – Clark, NJ 10/24 – Aftershock Festival – Sacramento, CA 10/25 – Knotfest @ San Manuel Amphitheater – San Bernardino, CA 10/31 – Voodoo Festival – New Orleans, LA
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
You’ve probably already seen this news everywhere, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t post about the fact that Mastodon and Clutch are touring together and that Big Business and Graveyard will switch off in the support role. Some things are just too badass not to post, no matter how ubiquitous they might be.
The tour starts April 16 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and all that’s really left to wonder is if Clutch‘s new album — which is being recorded this month — will be released by the time the run ends on May 24. Either way, it’s pretty astounding that these two have come together, so I’ll get out of the way and defer to the PR wire, which has dates and details:
MASTODON & CLUTCH JOIN FORCES TO PUMMEL THROUGH THE MISSING LINK TOUR
TICKETS ON SALE FRIDAY JANUARY 23RD FOR SPRING CO-HEADLINE TOUR
GRAVEYARD WILL SUPPORT / BIG BUSINESS TO SUPPORT WHERE NOTED
Two of the world’s most respected and influential hard rock bands Mastodon and Clutch are proud to announce THE MISSING LINK TOUR, which brings together both bands as they join forces along with special guests Graveyard and Big Business – each taking part of the tour as support.Together, this night of heavy rock will be one of the heaviest and most exciting concert events of the year.
THE MISSING LINK TOUR kicks off on April 16th in St. Paul, MN. with support provided by Big Business, who recently supported Mastodon throughout a sold-out European tour. Sweden’s Graveyard will then take over the main support slot starting in Los Angeles on April 29th for the remaining dates, closing out the tour in Columbus, OH on May 24th. Tickets are on sale now.
Mastodon and Clutch share a longtime friendship as fans will recall Clutch front man Neil Fallon contributed vocals to “Blood And Thunder” (from Mastodon’s 2004’s Leviathan) so fans can expect surprises in store for fans throughout the tour rumbling across North America. THE MISSING LINK TOUR will feature full sets from both Mastodon and Clutch. Clutch will close the show on April 24th in Vancouver, May 10th in Pittsburgh, May 15th in Bethlehem, May 16th in Baltimore and also the final night of the tour, May 24th in Columbus. Mastodon will close all other shows.
Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster had this to say about the tour.”We are very much looking forward to our US tour with our friends in Mastodon. We always enjoy playing live but when we have the opportunity to share the stage with a band as inspiring as Mastodon we know each evening will be that much more special. See ya out there!”
Mark your calendars, as THE MISSING LINK TOUR will roll into Denver’s prestigious Red Rocks Amphitheatre on May 3rd, and joins the stellar line up for Atlanta’s Shaky Knee’s Festival on May 8th. The New York City show will take over the celebrated Central Park Summer Stage annual concert series on May 19th. General tickets on-sale Friday, January 23rd.
As previously announced, Mastodon have been nominated for a 2015 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance for “High Road,” from ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN. This is the band’s third Grammy nomination. The 57th Annual Grammy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on Feb 8th. Tune into CBS TV.
Revered Maryland rockers Clutch have been pushing the boundaries that define heavy rock music since the 4 original members got together in high school. Clutch is an unmatched musical force that has been best described as “the quintessential American Rock Band”. Clutch released their tenth and latest studio album Earth Rocker via their own label Weathermaker Music on March 16, 2013. The album entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #15 giving the band their highest chart position to date.
Clutch is currently working on their follow up to Earth Rocker which will be released in 2015.
Do not miss THE MISSING LINK TOUR this spring. Confirmed dates are as follows:
*Mastodon Closes The Evening. **Clutch Closes The Evening
Apr 16 *St. Paul, MN Myth Apr 17 * Winnipeg, MB The Burton Cummings Theatre Apr 18 *Saskatoon, SK O’Brian’s Events Center Apr 19 * Edmonton, AB Expo Centre Apr 21 * Calgary, AB MacEwan Hall Apr 23 * Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom Apr 24 **Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom Apr 25 *Portland, OR Roseland Apr 26 *Seattle, WA Showbox SODO Apr 28 *Oakland, CA Fox Theater Apr 29 *Los Angeles, CA Palladium Apr 30 *Tempe, AZ Marquee Theater May 01 *Las Vegas, NV House of Blues May 02 *Salt Lake City, UT The Complex May 03 *Denver, CO Red Rock’s Amphitheatre May 05 *San Antonio, TX Kapone’s Ballroom May 06 *Oklahoma City, OK Diamond Ballroom May 08 Atlanta, GA Shaky Knees Festival May 09 *Raleigh, NC Lincoln Theatre Street Stage May 10 **Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE May 12 *Clive, IA (Des Moines) 7 Flags May 13 *Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom Club Stage May 15 **Bethlehem, PA Sands Event Center May 16 **Baltimore, MD Pier Six Pavilion May 17 *Boston, MA House of Blues May 19 *New York, NY Central Park Summerstage May 20 *Niagara Falls, NY Rapids Theatre May 21 *London, ON London Music Hall May 24 **Columbus, OH LC Pavilion
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
With a Robot Hive/Exudos 2LP reissue and a deluxe 2CD/DVD edition of last year’s Earth Rocker (review here) coming this month, Clutch have hit the road in Europe. The Marylander groove kings will be back in time for a few shows in July, however, and they’ve just announced they’ll spend the bulk of September touring as well around appearances at Riot Fest in Chicago, Toronto and Denver and the Shindig Music Festival in their native Baltimore. So, you know, plenty more Clutch. Which is a win.
As I decide to just make the headline “ClutchAnnounce More US Tour Dates” a permanent fixture around here, the PR wire steps in with details:
CLUTCH ANNOUNCES FALL U.S. TOUR
‘EARTH ROCKER’ SET FOR TRIPLE DELUXE (2xCD/DVD) RELEASE ON TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014 VIA WEATHERMAKER MUSIC
‘ROBOT HIVE/EXODUS’ CLASSIC CLUTCH ALBUM TO RECEIVE COLLECTOR’S EDITION DOUBLE VINYL RELEASE ON TUESDAY, JUNE 10
CLUTCH, the acclaimed Maryland-based rock group, have announced they’ll launch a fall U.S. tour kicking off September 5th in Providence, RI. See full tour itinerary below.
On June 24, 2014, CLUTCH–NEIL FALLON (vocals, rhythm guitar), TIM SULT (lead guitar), DAN MAINES (bass), JEAN-PAUL GASTER (drums and percussion)–will release a triple deluxe version of their acclaimed EARTH ROCKER album via Weathermaker Music. EARTH ROCKER was tagged by Rolling Stone on their “Top 20 Metal Albums” list and hailed by the magazine for its fusion of “seething admixtures of jam-band chops, careening blues-punk riffs” (December 2013). The EARTH ROCKER triple deluxe album package will include: 1) the full record and brand new songs “Night Hag” and “Scavengers”; 2) “Earth Rocker Live,” a CD audio version of the album performed live; and 3) the DVD “Live In Denver” recorded with seven cameras in 1080i at a sold-out Denver show with audio remixing by Paul Logus and editing by Dave Brodsky; and two videos shot, directed and edited by actress Aisha Tyler: “Gone Cold” (unreleased) and “Crucial Velocity.” To pre-order the EARTH ROCKER triple deluxe, visit:www.clutchmerch.com.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Machine (King Crimson, Lamb Of God), EARTH ROCKER’s triple deluxe cover artwork was created by long time CLUTCH art director Nick Lakiotis (see below).
Robot Hive/Exodus–the group’s classic 2005 album–will also receive a collector’s edition double vinyl release on Tuesday, June 10. The beautiful double LP is re-mastered and comes in a re-designed gatefold package boasting some of CLUTCH’s best tracks. In addition, the group recently teamed with producer J. Robbins (The Sword, Coliseum) to record the new song “Run, John Barleycorn, Run” as a special split 7” single with labelmates Lionize in honor of Record Store Day, available now: www.clutchmerch.com.
CLUTCH continue their european festival tour through June 29. In July, they’ll return to the U.S. for a handful of shows before performing at all three Riot Fest dates (Toronto, Chicago and Denver) before joining the Shindig Festival alongside Jane’s Addiction, Rise Against, Gogol Bordello and more in Baltimore, MD on September 27. See all tour dates below.
EUROPE SUMMER 2014 FRI 6/8 Vienna, Austria Arena SAT 6/9 Munich, Germany Backstage Werk WED 6/11 Hamburg, Germany Gruenspan THU 6/12 Copenhagen, Denmark Copenhell Festival FRI 6/13 Cologne, Germany Essigfabrik SAT 6/14 Switzerland Greenfield Festival SUN 6/15 Stuttgart, Germany LKA Longhorn TUE 6/17 Haarlem, Netherlands Patronaat WED 6/18 Nijmegen, Netherlands Doornroosje THU 6/19 Frankfurt, Germany Batschkapp FRI 6/20 Paris, France Nouveau Casino SAT 6/21 Clisson, France Hellfest SUN 6/22 Switzerland Fete de la Musique TUE 6/24 Thessaloniki, Greece Fuzz Club WED 6/25 Athens, Greece Fix Factory of Sound FRI 6/27 Norrkoping, Sweden Bravalla Festival SAT 6/28 Finowfurt, Germany Roadrunner’s Paradise Race 61 Festival SUN 6/29 Roeser, Luxembourg Rock A Field Festival US TOUR THU 7/24 Syracuse, NY Westcott Theater FRI 7/25 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE SAT 7/26 Columbus, OH The Great Summer Smokeout SUN 7/27 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy’s US TOUR FRI 9/5 Providence, RI Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel SAT 9/6 Clifton Park, NY Upstate Concert Hall SAT-SUN 9/6-9/7 Toronto, ON Riot Fest TUE 9/9 Knoxville, TN The Bijou Theatre WED 9/10 Lexington, KY Buster’s Billiards & Backroom THU 9/11 Toledo, OH Headliners FRI-SUN 9/12-9/14 Chicago, IL Riot Fest SAT 9/13 Grand Rapids, MI The Orbit Room MON 9/15 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue TUE 9/16 Sioux Falls, SD The District THU 9/18 Kansas City, MO Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland FRI 9/19 Omaha, NE Sokol Auditorium FRI-SUN 9/19-9/21 Denver, CO Riot Fest MON 9/22 Springfield, MO Gillioz Theatre TUE 9/23 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue THU 9/25 Huntington, NY The Paramount FRI 9/26 Norfolk, VA The NorVa SAT 9/27 Baltimore, MD The Shindig Music Festival
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last I heard, Maryland groove forerunners Clutch had started pre-production on a new album, but apparently that’s not all they’ve had in the works. In addition to headlining at Desertfest Berlin, the four-piece have slated a deluxe reissue for 2013’s album of the year, Earth Rocker(review here), as well as one for Robot Hive/Exodus. They’ve also got a split 7″ with Lionize in time for Record Store Day, a new claymation video for “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…,” which closed out Earth Rocker, and as ever, they’re going to be hitting the road pretty hard the next few months. Just when you thought it had been a while since you heard anything from the Clutch camp, here they come with a roundhouse to the face of news.
A considerable undertaking for the PR wire:
CLUTCH – RENOWNED AMERICAN ROCK GROUP TO RELEASE RECORD STORE DAY SPLIT 7” FEATURING NEW CLUTCH SONG “RUN, JOHN BARLEYCORN, RUN” AND “ETHER MADNESS” FROM LIONIZE
DUE OUT APRIL 19
‘EARTH ROCKER’ SET FOR TRIPLE DELUXE (2xCD/DVD) RELEASE ON JUNE 10, 2014 VIA WEATHERMAKER MUSIC
‘ROBOT HIVE/EXODUS’ CLASSIC CLUTCH ALBUM TO RECEIVE COLLECTOR’S EDITION DOUBLE VINYL RELEASE ON JUNE 10
CLUTCH, the acclaimed Maryland-based rock group, have teamed with producer J. Robbins (The Sword, Coliseum) to record the new song “Run, John Barleycorn, Run.” The track will be released on Tuesday, April 19 via Weathermaker Music as a special split 7” single with labelmates Lionize as part of Record Store Day.
On June 10, 2014, CLUTCH will release a triple deluxe version of their acclaimed EARTH ROCKER album via Weathermaker Music. Released in 2013, EARTH ROCKER was tagged by Rolling Stone on the “Top 20 Metal Albums” list and hailed by the magazine for its fusion of “seething admixtures of jam-band chops, careening blues-punk riffs” (December 2013). The EARTH ROCKER triple deluxe album package will include: 1) the full record and brand new songs “Night Hag” and “Scavengers,” 2) “Earth Rocker Live,” a CD audio version of the album performed live; and 3) on DVD “Live In Denver” recorded with seven cameras in 1080i on Nov. 14 at the sold-out Ogden Theatre show in Denver, two videos shot, directed and edited by actress Aisha Tyler: “Gone Cold” (unreleased) and “Crucial Velocity.” To pre-order EARTH ROCKER, visit: www.clutchmerch.com.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Machine (King Crimson, Lamb Of God), EARTH ROCKER’s triple deluxe cover artwork was created by long time CLUTCH art director Nick Lakiotis (see below). EARTH ROCKER continues to garner the group some of the best reviews of their career.
The group have announced their classic 2005 album Robot Hive/Exodus will receive a collector’s edition double vinyl release on Tuesday, June 10. The beautiful double LP is re-mastered and comes in a re-designed gatefold package boasting some of CLUTCH’s best tracks.
CLUTCH–NEIL FALLON (vocals, rhythm guitar), TIM SULT (lead guitar), DAN MAINES (bass,), JEAN-PAUL GASTER (drums and percussion)—will launch an overseas tour starting Tuesday, April 22 in Newcastle, UK at the O2 Academy taking them through the European festival circuit through June 29. In July, they’ll return to the U.S. for a handful of shows before joining Jane’s Addiction, Rise Against, Gogol Bordello and Halestorm at the Shindig Festival in Baltimore, MD on Saturday, September 27. Expect the group to announce additional U.S. festival dates and headlining shows in the coming months.
UK/GER/IRE 2014 Tue 4/22 Newcastle O2 Academy Wed 4/23 Leeds Metropolitan Thu 4/24 Manchester Academy Sat 4/26 Berlin, Germany Desertfest at Astra Sun 4/27 Antwerpen, Belgium Trix Muziekcentrum Tue 4/29 Birmingham O2 Academy Wed 4/30 Brighton Concorde 2 Thu 5/1 London Forum Fri 5/2 Norwich The Waterfront Sat 5/3 Nottingham Rock City Sun 5/4 Bristol Temples Festival at Motion Tue 5/6 Edinburgh Liquid Room Wed 5/7 Glasgow O2 ABC Thu 5/8 Belfast Limelight 2 Fri 5/9 Dublin Dublin Academy
EUROPE SUMMER 2014 Fri 6/8 Vienna, Austria Arena Sat 6/9 Munich, Germany Backstage Werk Weds 6/11 Hamburg, Germany Gruenspan Thu 6/12 Copenhagen, Denmark Copenhell Festival Fri 6/13 Cologne, Germany Essigfabrik Sat 6/14 Switzerland Greenfield Festival Sun 6/15 Stuttgart, Germany LKA Longhorn Tue 6/17 Haarlem, Netherlands Patronaat Wed 6/18 Nijmegen, Netherlands Doornroosje Thu 6/19 Frankfurt, Germany Batschkapp Fri 6/20 Paris, France Nouveau Casino Sat 6/21 Clisson, France Hellfest Sun 6/22 Switzerland Fete de la Musique Tue 6/24 Thessaloniki, Greece Fuzz Club Wed 6/25 Athens, Greece Fix Factory of Sound Fri 6/27 Norrkoping, Sweden Bravalla Festival Sat 6/28 Finowfurt, Germany Roadrunner’s Paradise Race 61 Festival Sun 6/29 Roeser, Luxembourg Rock A Field Festival
US TOUR Thu 7/24 Syracuse, NY Westcott Theater Fri 7/25 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE Sun 7/27 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy’s The Shindig Music Festival with Jane’s Addiction, Rise Against, Gogol Bordello, and Halestorm Sat 9/27 Baltimore, MD The Shindig Music Festival
Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.
I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.
That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.
Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:
20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door
Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.
For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockworkto be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.
Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Wardemerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Wardfor repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.
There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.
If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earthwas palpable even in comparison to 2009’s I Have Returned(review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.
Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III(review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.
It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarialis to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.
Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relicsmarked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.
Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011’s Splitting Sky(review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculusshowed both that the appeal of Splitting Skywas no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.
Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morningwasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.
It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Musewas there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Musewas a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Musetranslated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.
9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowinto a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.
When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of PaleDivine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.
7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood
One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Floodshowed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.
Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Controland the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade — is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lustin terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Controlreally made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lustmake such an impression.
Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcomewas the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.
From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peacewith the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.
The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013’s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.
Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrolsuch a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrolwas a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrolwas that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was just so damn good to have them be weird again.
Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rockerwas going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodusand 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004’s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rockerwas huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rockerwill deliver for years to come.
The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions
I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:
21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire
Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, Gonga, TonerLow, Jesuand Sandrider.
Two More Special Records
I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacierby Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.
Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.