Words by James Lavel
Clutch are a rare breed, still holding their original line up of high school classmates. For 30 years they have combined hard work, passion and energy into every song they write. After 12 studio albums and a sleuth of releases since 1991, Clutch are back with their 13th studio album: ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’.
After 30 years of music Clutch have traveled many roads: from their raw hard-hitting ‘Transnational Speedway League’ and self-tilted to the more blues rocking ‘From Beale Street to Oblivion’ to the upbeat ‘Earth Rocker’ and ‘Psychic Warfare’. Eclectic yet true to themselves, Clutch have begun what feels like a new saga, with the 2018 ‘Book of Bad Decisions’ bringing a darker yet more heartfelt sound to the band. ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ feels like an extension of that journey, bringing the riffs and sounds that are unmistakably Clutch.
The first track, Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone), was released some months back as their first single release from the album. When I first heard it, I couldn’t help thinking, “what the hell is this song about” … I remember finding an article where Neil Fallon (vocals) spoke of an elusive schematic being posted online some time earlier during peak COVID that was depicted as the mighty mind control device in our booster shots… alas, it was none other than the schematic for the Boss Metal Zone guitar pedal. Hilarity aside it was apt of Neil to adopt this narrative into a song (being a big science fiction fan himself). The song kicks ass. I would like to note that unlike the single version, there is a quiet intro before the song so don’t go cranking it like I did and nearly blow out your eardrums. For a long time, Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) has been my favourite rock drummer; his ability to mix grove with hard-hitting, ear-splitting power is unrivalled. Mix that with Tim Sult’s octave heavy, wah riding riffs, Dan Maines epic bass grooves and the manic preaching of Neil Fallon it’s no wonder this band has been riding high for 30 years. The track doesn’t lose any momentum from start to finish. It’s no wonder as to why this is the album opener.
Things take a darker edge with track two Sunrise on Slaughter Beach, some wriggly riffs leading us to the waterfront. The song reminds me a lot of Emily Dickinson from their previous album and feels a little safe, following a generic structure. Still, a solid hook and a nice touch of female backup vocals from singers Deborah Bond and Frenchie Davis who add some extra flavor to the song.
Track three Mountain of Bone is very clearly a recount of some fond DND memories. The bass and drums really drive this one. Around the 3-minute mark JP rolls what I swear is some Phill Collins drums beats but let’s not get into that. The song really builds around here and drives the tune home. Nosferatu Madre (track four) is another builder but has a strong hook. However, I still don’t get the fire in my belly like from Red Alert. That said some more backups here helps drive the song along.
Mercy Brown is the obligatory slower track on the record. It has the very familiar feel of Ghost or Our Lady of Electric Light from previous albums. I really enjoy Neil’s lyrical work in these tracks, the way the band builds a picture around him is compelling. It often feels as if Clutch is building a larger narrative with their albums, particularly some of these slower, groovier tracks. Dan has some stellar bass chops and shines a light on them in these tracks.
We Strive for Excellence takes us back to first gear, revving the hell out of the engine. This one has a big energy. “Salute the denim, light the pyro, and strive for excellence” … enough said really. This song makes me want to put on my flanno and hop in my Impala. Track 7, Skeleton on Mars brings back the sci-fi vibes with spacey guitar licks reverberating throughout, not to mention the use of a theremin. This song is a journey that kicks along at a pace that keeps it all together. Some riffs at the backend of the song rip. This song definitely feels like a new musical space for Clutch and I really dig the direction.
Three Golden Horns is a trip. This song continues exploring the space introduced by the previous track. Hell, there is some straight up Primus guitar riffs midway through. The lyrics are catchy and compelling and bring together a hypnotic sound. The album rounds out with Jackhammer Our Names. This song is dark, and I love it. Still wading through a new sound space, there are feelings of a long journey coming to an end; a very fitting final track to a solid album.
Check out the links below for more Clutch and give ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ a spin as soon as you can.
Clutch are also celebrating the release of the new album with a FREE LIVESTREAM:
‘LIVE FROM HAMMERJACKS’:
Sunday, September 18th At 12pm AEST
Featuring A Full Setlist Including New Album In Its Entirety
Watch Live At OfficialClutch YouTube Channel
With thanks to Daydream Nation