Review Summary: Clutch burst with renewed vitality on their tenth album.
In the title track of Earth Rocker
Neil Fallon proudly proclaims: “I will suffer no evil. My guitar will guide me through.” This statement makes for an ideal motto for Maryland-based Clutch, who show no signs of stopping. After their two previous records, it seemed that the foursome would pursue their chosen path of vintage blues rock. This certainly is not the case with their tenth full-length Earth Rocker
which takes an unexpected turn towards the style of the act's greatest endeavors regarded by many as stoner rock benchmarks. As a result, the album captures Clutch at their heaviest, fastest and most streamlined, not only on the strength of the band's focused vision, but also due to the contribution of their former producer Machine who opts for a massive, yet distinctly warm sound.
All songs glimmer with a renewed zest for crafting ferocious tunes, and the songwriting that propels Earth Rocker
is remarkably efficient, combining many elements that made Blast Tyrant
and Robot Hive/Exodus
so coveted in the first place. On a predominantly guitar-centered album, Tim Sult steals the show with a multitude of memorable riffs that oscillate between thundering, groove-laden and spaced-out. His standout performance comes with cinematic “Oh, Isabella” where his powerful leads are superbly juxtaposed with tremendous psychedelic soloing. Dan Maines' clunky bass lines are more prominent in the mix than ever before, often counterpointing Jean-Paul Gaster whose performance behind the drum kit feels both hard-hitting and inventive. The fist-pumping, Southern rock stomp of “D.C. Sound Attack!” makes great use of cowbell, while the double shuffle technique highlights bouncy “Book, Saddle, And Go.”
The outfit's penchant for integrating massive grooves with infectious choruses and superb transitions is in full swing. Whether it's the anthemic vibe of the title track, ominous guitar tones of “Crucial Velocity” or the danceable groove of “Mr. Freedom,” Clutch excel in keeping their presentation intense, yet familiar for everyone who's acquainted with their previous work. One obvious deviation from the heavy rock formula is the rootsy folk balladry of “Gone Cold” that interestingly breaks the album in half. Another cut that reaches beyond the act's comfort zone is the closer “The Wolf Man Kindly Requests...” which marvelously displays jam rock tendencies with its jarring shifts and no-frills lyrics.
Neil Fallon's presence has always equipped Clutch's albums with loads of personality, and Earth Rocker
is no exception. Fallon injects many sing-along choruses with a palpable sense of bravado, yet he's prone to break his signature flow every now and again. For instance, “Unto The Breach” feels like his own spin on rap music at points due to his broken delivery style. As regards the lyrics, Fallon continues to tackle a plethora of themes that overflow with his uniquely personal vision and culture-inspired poetry. Mid-paced “The Face” is an absolutely astounding pro-rock anthem that sports such lines as: “One thousand Les Pauls burning in a field/What rabid religion poisons their minds"/One thousand Jazzmasters thrown into the sea/What measure of madness governs their time"”
In its essence, Earth Rocker
is a rollicking heavy rock ride that showcases Clutch at the peak of their collective talents. With a fan-pleasing alteration in style and 'no-filler, all-killer' logic, the outfit have put out one of their most widely appealing albums thus far, not to mention a staple release for stoner rock in 2013.