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Clutch, ‘Psychic Warfare': Album Review

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October’s proving to be a pretty tough month for anybody trying to claim that rock ‘n’ roll is dead, thanks to excellent new albums from Eagles of Death Metal, Monster Magnet and perhaps most impressively, Clutch.

The inventive Maryland-based hard-rock outfit – soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary – have just made an unexpectedly high debut (No. 11!) on the Billboard 200 Albums chart with its 11th album, Psychic Warfare. It’s almost enough to make you think that true talent and years of hard work actually count for something in this world.

Over their first seven largely wonderful albums, Clutch’s music evolved from a comparatively sludgy and riff-based attack to something more nimble and diverse without sacrificing any power. Some could argue that their 2007 and 2009 efforts From Beale Street to Oblivion and Strange Cousins From the West got a little too refined and conventionally blues-rock reliant, but the band rebounded spectacularly in 2013 with the career highlight Earth Rocker – their most economical, hook-packed collection of fury and oddness to date.

Psychic Warfare picks up where Earth Rocker left off with the frantic one-two punch of “X-Ray Visions” and “Firebirds,” but soon proves to be a more expansive and wide-ranging collection. There’s always one song on every Clutch album that would sound absolutely perfect aboard a viking ship being torn apart by violent storms and a sea monster, and this time out the honor goes to the churning, hypnotic “Behold the Colossus.”

Another highlight is the chunky and exceptionally groovy “Your Love Is Incarceration,” which features particularly witty rhymes (“Segregate me from the local population / Your love is incarceration”) from always-quotable frontman Neil Fallon. But the album’s two slow numbers may prove to have the most lasting impact. The stark, glacial “Our Lady of Electric Light” sounds like the theme song to a western we can’t wait to see, while the slow-burning seven-minute closing epic “Son of Virginia” proves we’re idiots for knocking the band’s infatuation with the blues a couple of paragraphs ago. As Fallon testifies in increasingly more passionate ways with each chorus, we are, truly, living in an age of wonder.

Today in Rock History: October 13

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