Review Summary: Clutch combine hard rock, blues, and the raw energy of their live shows into a great album that every rock fan should hear.
When I discovered Clutch this time last year, I had discovered what would become one of my five all-time favourite bands. Here was a relatively unheard of, but nonetheless, absolutely frigging fantastic band, that nobody I knew had heard of. I started with Clutch's (in my opinion) masterpiece, Blast Tyrant's
, and I was instantly hooked. I then got the rest of their albums, and since Blast Tyrant
has been reviewed, I started with my second favourite album, Pure Rock Fury
, released in 2001 by Atlantic Records. On this album, Neil Fallon sang lead vocals, and played the occasional bit of guitar (Brazenhead
) and organ (Careful With That Mic...
), Tim Sult played guitar, Dan Maines played bass, and Jean-Paul Gaster played drums. It is worth noting that some of this album was recorded live (according to Maines, Smoke Banshee
was recorded live at the 9:30 club in Washington DC, and then overdubbed in the studio, as was the case with several songs on this album), and so has a very raw sound. On to the review!
As soon as the album starts, American Sleep
kicks in with feedback, followed by one of the heaviest parts of this album. Then, after a short bass riff, the vocals come in, Fallon singing in his almost preacher-like style. This song does a good job of setting the tone for Pure Rock Fury
. Then in the middle, there is a great solo by Sult, and then it gets a little weird, with Neil singing "One, two, fisherman's stew..." over some masterful bass playing. This is one example of Fallon's strange lyrics, which (even he has admitted) don't always make sense, but definitely sound weirdly poetic and always fit the music. After another chorus, the song fades into one of my favourites, the eponymous Pure Rock Fury
. In my opinion, this song is a perfect showcase of Sult, Maines and Gaster as musicians, featuring fantastic bass work throughout, a blistering solo by Sult, and amazing, fast and consistent drumming throughout.
The next song, Open Up The Border
features more incredible drumming by Gaster, and more great vocal work from Neil, also with strange lyrics, with subjects such as swapping cans of spam with the merry wives of Windsor. Then comes probably the cleverest song on the album, Careful With That Mic...
, which has been interpreted as an attack on the rap metal scene. The lyrics criticize artists whose "style is like garbage cans meant to be taken out on a weekly basis", and Neil does an amazing job of singing the lyrics, in his own style of rapping. This song also shows the humorous side to Fallon's lyrics, with lines such as "hey, this is really good ice-cream, you want some of it" Oh, my bad, I didn't know you were lactose intolerant, makes you pass gas, frightens all the girls away, only friends you keep are those you pay".
Red Horse Rainbow
features a drum beat which, after many, many
, listens, I still can't figure out how to play on my own kit. This is one of the best examples of Gaster's unique, musical style of drumming, and in my opinion, since John Bonham passed away, Gaster is the best drummer alive today, bar none, as well as forming one of the best rhythm sections in rock with Maines. Again, this song features some odd lyrics, as well as an absolutely incredible solo by Sult. I really like the part toward the end of the song, where Sult plays some great double-tracked lead guitar lines over some quite chilled-out jamming from Maines and Gaster, which then builds in intensity, and concludes with drums alone. Then as the next track, The Great Outdoors!
kicks in, there is more fantastic drumming. If you have any drummer friends who haven't heard of Clutch, this album could make a great present for them. On the same topic, not only is the playing great, but the sounds of the instruments, especially the mixing of the drums and lead guitar, sounds incredible on this album. While it doesn't sound as crisp and clean as Blast Tyrant
or Robot Hive/Exodus
, this album, like The Elephant Riders
, has very raw, quasi-live sound. At the end of this song, there is a great bit of editing, where the instruments all move to the right channel, and become very tinny and compressed sounding, which is a nice effect.
As suddenly as The Great Outdoors!
ends with guitar feedback, Smoke Banshee
begins explosively (and in the background, you can hear someone shouting, since this is one of the songs that was recorded live). This song is quite repetitive until the middle eight, where a fantastic guitar riff kicks in, and the song takes a turn for the heavy. The vocals then come back in, with some of Gaster's best fills complementing the music. The chorus then makes a return once more, before the end. You might be growing tired of my incessant drum talk, but in Frankenstein
our ears are yet again graced with the unique stylings of Gaster. Other than that, I really like Fallon's lyrics in this song, especially the line "Oh hey there Mother Nature, why do you keep on shooting us that look"/No we did not take it, I swear we were only borrowing the book!". The next track is Sinkemlow
, a re-imagining of the similarly named Sink 'Em Low
from Jam Room
two years earlier. Nothing new to say really, just more amazing guitar, bass, drums and vocals, you know the drill.
Then comes Immortal
, which is actually Clutch's own version of a Leslie West (from the band Mountain) song called Baby I'm Down
. When I first heard this song, I realised I had heard it a few years before (albeit not knowing it was by Clutch) in the video game Hitman: Contracts
, where it plays in a biker bar. And let's face it, if any song should be associated with bikers, it's this one. However, despite all this, it's probably my least favourite song from Pure Rock Fury
, because despite the great production values, this song seems to sound a little sterile, and doesn't quite have the energy that tracks such as Pure Rock Fury
and [i]Frankenstein[/b] have.
As we approach the end of the album, we reach the song Brazenhead
, another favourite of mine. This is the longest (clocking in at 6:28), and most musically diverse, song on the album. After a live intro, with Fallon encouraging the crowd to clap along, the song kicks in, and turns out to be quite funky, with wah-wah guitar sections over the verse, as well as cowbells and other percussion which adds to this funky sound. In the second verse, Fallon's backing vocals also sound like they belong in a funk song. I can't really describe it, but when you hear it, you'll know what I mean. After a final chorus, the song becomes a jam, which eventually fades out. Drink To The Dead
is the final song on the album (unless you have the edition with a bonus track, a live version of Spacegrass
). This song competes with Frankenstein
as my favourite song on the album. I love the lyrics ("May you go marching in three measure time, dressed up as asses, drunk to the nines"), as well as the huge, sing-along, chorus. If you listen closely, this song has a nice walking bassline under the pre-chorus, and throughout the song, it is obvious that John Bonham is an influence on Gaster, as the fast bass drum parts in the verse seem to echo those in Led Zeppelin's Good Times, Bad Times
All in all, this is a great album, and I would recommend it to anyone who is either, a fan of other albums by Clutch, or a fan of great rock music in general.
Recommended tracks: Pure Rock Fury
, Drink To The Dead
P.S.: This is my first review, and it may not be up to scratch with some of the other reviews on the site, but I hope to learn from my mistakes, so please leave constructive comments.