Claw - s/t - (7/10)
Published on September 18, 2014
In what is either a case of egregious false advertising, a PR person not knowing his/her shit or the band gleefully trolling us reviewers, the press release accompanying Claw’s eponymous debut pegged it as an album recommended for fans of Metallica, Megadeth and Kreator. Nothing wrong with that except the minor fact that, uhm, this is about as close to the abovementioned bands as Crowbar is to grindcore. Paradise Lost is also mentioned as a possible reference point so perhaps these Swiss metallers’ left-field tendencies shouldn’t be that surprising. Pigeonholing these guys is basically an exercise in futility as their sound is a hybrid mix of groove, power metal, rock and thrash that’s all over the friggin’ map. What they lack in focus they make up for in catchy riffs and a keen sense of melody, however, so all hope is not lost.
Not to get overly pedantic with regards to labels but the most accurate reference would perhaps be a mix of Lazarus A.D. (remember them?) and contemporary Anthrax. All out thrash only comes in fits and starts, guitars are upfront but rarely threatening and interplay between melodies and vocal harmonies is at a premium. It also feels very modern and slick without necessarily taking things overboard. A concept album of sorts, Claw deals with that familiar thrash metal trope – post-Apocalyptic dystopia – but does so in a way that substitutes atmosphere for intensity and groove for speed. At this point it should be clear that the Kreator and Paradise Lost references are redundant since these songs aren’t imbued with the ferocity of the former and the doom ‘n’ gloom of the latter. It’s not really a problem though, since they showcase a flair for the epic (that intro is almost cinematic in scope!), a keen sense of tempered groove (“Too Late” & “My Arch Enemy”) and a knack for almost-but-not-quite saccharine balladry (“Alone”). In spite of the wildly divergent styles on display the album succeeds due to Niko Prensilevich’s emotive clean vocals and the strong melodic dynamic (Jon Schaffer would do well to listen to a song like “Out of the Vault” as an example of how to balance groove, thrash and strong vocal harmonies into a punchy yet accessible whole).
They dart back and forth between a wealth of different styles somewhat radically so the album definitely lacks coherence which, considering it also clocks in at 52 minutes, does make it a bit of a chore to sit through. Consume it in small doses, though, and Claw is a refreshing album that has something for everybody (hell, there is even a bizarre detour into symphonic black metal territory on “The Alphapocalypse”!). I’m sure that if they put their heads down, cut some of the excess fat and beef up the production (the bass drums sound very plastic-y) then they have a great album in them.