CLUTCH occupy a very interesting place in the Metal scene, especially considering the fact that they aren’t really a Metal band at all. The band regularly tours with Metal bands such as CROWBAR, HIGH ON FIRE and MASTODON and serves as an influence on countless other bands. Sure, the band’s debut album “Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes and Undeniable Truths” was fairly Metallic at places and the band is undeniably heavy, but CLUTCH has always had just one foot in Metal, another in Stoner Rock and a few other feet scattered around various places such as Punk, Hardcore, Funk, Soul, Blues and at times even Progressive. Amazingly, the many feet of CLUTCH come together to form an unmistakable sound and though no two albums sound alike, they are all instantly recognizable as the works of CLUTCH.
With the release of “Robot Hive/Exodus,” just a little more than a year after the band graced us with the hard rocking “Blast Tyrant,” CLUTCH has released their sixth incredible album in a row. Sure, their debut was weak, but after that, the band has consistently released solid albums devoid of filler and full of the Rock and Roll spirit. You’ve got to wonder – how do they do it? How can every album they release be this good? CLUTCH just doesn’t falter.
Musically, “Robot Hive/Exodus” sounds like a mixture of the band’s finest moments from “Blast Tyrant,” “Jam Room,” and “Clutch” with a good mixture of the Blues. Not as accessible or straightforward as “Blast Tyrant,” “Robot Hive/Exodus” may take a few listens to really catch your attention, but take my word for it, the songs rock like no other – just take a listen to the anthemic “Mice And Gods” or the irresistibly catch “10001110101.” Who would have thought that any band could get a chorus of binary digits stuck in your head? Furthering past experimentation, the band has added a permanent keyboard player in the form of Mick Schauer this time around, which works to great effect on the atmospheric “Land Of Pleasant Living” and the Progressively quirky “Circus Maximus.” Don’t worry, the band hasn’t turned into some faux-Prog Rock band, filling every bit of empty space with unnecessary keyboard work; instead, they use it to augment the song writing, very rarely going into straight keyboard-based passages.
In addition to the keyboards, there’s a big Western feel on this record. “Gravel Road” begins with pure Bluegrass twang and “Who’s Been Talking?” is straight-up Blues that, when heard with Neil Fallon’s deep vocals, wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tom Waits record. Speaking of Neil’s voice, he’s pretty much dropped the drunken redneck sounds found on some past albums and gone more toward the vocals found on “Blast Tyrant,” though this time with a lot more soul. His lyrics are as good – and obscure – as ever, which will delight any long-time fan of the band. This time around, most of them seem to deal with religion, though not in any direct or clumsy fashion. Simply put, Neil Fallon is one of the most creative and eloquent lyricists in modern heavy music.
”Robot Hive/Exodus” will be a real treat for CLUTCH fans and also for anyone into creative, riff-driven Stoner Rock/Metal. No, scratch that – this album is a treat for anyone into good music, played with spirit by a band that simply knows no equals at what they do. (Online October 9, 2005)