Review Summary: A Diamond Hidden In Plain Sight
Clutch – Earth Rocker
Over this year I've heard a lot of albums. There have been some that I can't stop playing, and some that I can't wait to turn off. Bring Me The Horizon released their phenominal 4th album, Sempiternal to critical acclaim, pushing for high charting spots all around the globe. Bleed From Within put out arguably the record of their career thus-far, Uprising, an album you could place comfortably with the likes of Lamb Of God and Devildriver. However, the less said about the new Falling In Reverse release, the better...
However I'm not here to talk about any of the albums mentioned above. I'm here to talk about, arguably; my album of the year. Or at least a sure fire contender for a top 3 spot. Earth Rocker is a southern tinged, aggressive thrill ride from the moment the first chord of title track Earth Rocker hits the ears; to the final bark on album closer The Wolf Man Kindly Requests... Being released in the same time frame as the albums the world seems to be screaming about, you'd have thought that this simple, rock and roll album would be lost in the fray. You'd be very, very wrong.
Title track Earth Rocker opens the album, with a riff so deceptively simple; you'd be forgiven for passing it off straight away as another plodding blues rock track you've heard so many times before. However, the song quickly builds to a steady beat, albeit lacking any real crunchy production through the verses, but there's no doubting the quality of the engineering here. The song touts a chorus so infectious that only one listen is required, and it'll worm it's way into your brain for days to come. Vocalist Neil Fallon truly shines on this track, spitting lyrics such as 'If You're gonna do it do it live on stage/Or don't do it at all!' from the outset, it's clear that Clutch are here to spread their message, and they're pissed off.
Following Earth Rocker is Crucial Velocity, a track meant for the listener to surely be breaking some speed limits to! The song itself doesn't pull that many punches, and despite having yet another head-banging verse/chorus structure; is one of the weakest on the disc. However, it doesn't take long for the Maryland 4 Piece to pick up where they left off, delivering arguably one of the finest pieces of their career. Mr. Freedom begins as any great Rock & Roll song should, drenched in screeching feedback as we're treated to a blues rooted, swinging riff that carries us throughout the song, once again with Fallon venomously speaking his mind without hesitation; this time directing his blood toward the U.S Government & Military, with even the song's title seemingly masquerading as a false idol for which he's referring to throughout the piece.
With this we come to the album's stand out track, D.C. Sound Attack! With the band once again targeting their energy toward issues such as War & Peace, the pure... catchiness of this track cannot be overstated. Beginning with a simple roll from Drummer Jean Gaster (more on him later!), the song is off to a flying start, with a harmonica accompaniment that adds to the track to no end, showing the bands diversity as musicians and song writers. The track itself seems to channel late 80's Hardcore Bands, originating in D.C., very possibly where the title truly comes from! With the hook of 'I'm A War Monger Baby/ Gonna Industrialise ya/ I'm A War Monger Baby/ And I'm Lookin' At You!', this is a piece that DEMANDS your attention. And don't try to tell me that it did not!
The album continues to impress, with track Unto The Breach delivering much like Crucial Velocity , reliable and catchy, but does not stand out nearly as much as it's peers on the album! It's a track that fills the gap nicely between D.C. Sound Attack! And Gone Cold. This whiskey soaked, ultra-badass track serves as the albums slower point, allowing the listener a chance to chill as the album takes a breather, and expects you to do so too. The clean guitars noodling over the choruses gives this song a feel of being played almost without effort, like a track being played by a band in a bar, somewhere deep in the South of America, surrounded by harsh Desert. Stoner Rock at it's finest!
Song #7 channels the minds of Doom legends such as Black Sabbath and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, a sludgy riff twanging with the harsh hitting drums provided by Gaster. The guitar work on the album really is superb and you really get a feel for it's intricacies on this track, very much a showcase for the talents of the rhythm section of this tight 4 piece, with Fallon providing little more than a accompanying melody line for an awesome instrumental. The following song, Book, Saddle And Go is a swinging Rock & Roll song capable of being more, but is still not a weak track. In particular, Fallon's vocals once again shine.
Cyborg Bette crushes in almost as soon as the previous song finishes, and by the first few bars of the track it's clear why the previous track has trouble! This particular track has it all. A Catchy chorus, perfectly measured verses from each member of the band, impeccable timing, and a stunning mid song solo, complete with reverb-barren middle 8 section that just demands you take a deep breath before it plunges you back into it's chorus for one more sing along! This is the kind of song that must be heard to really be talked about.
While the final two tracks Oh, Isabella & The Wolfman Kindly Requests... fail to capture the perfection of Cyborg Bette, it's hard to argue that this band have lost any momentum at all, finishing the album is classic Clutch style.
The album's production is crisp, clear and perfect. Every guitar-line is captured beautifully, with there being little need for an overdrive pedal or much distortion at-all, it shows that the power truly is in the player.
And how it is, in drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. This album contains some of the best drumming I have ever heard, but through technicality. The loose technique of Gaster gives the album such a natural feel, that I dare you to listen to D.C. Sound Attack! Without slapping your fingers on the desk in front of you. This album truly shows off it's drum work and how right it is to do so. With every beat accentuated perfectly, Gaster shows that it's not the skill, it's the technique.
This album may not have been released at the best of times, vying for top place on album charts with the albums mentioned in the first paragraph, but if you give it the chance it truly deserves it will captivate and enthral it's listeners.