Clutch, ‘Psychic Warfare’ – Album Review
Clutch have really been on a roll the last few years. The band has been around for more than two decades and released some very well-received albums like 2004‘s Blast Tyrant. Since they started their own label Weathermaker Music a few years back, they’ve taken things to an even higher level.
2013‘s Earth Rocker received rave reviews, reintroducing them after a four year album absence and drawing a whole new generation of fans. Their latest opus, Psychic Warfare, takes a similar path that turns in a slightly different direction.
Frontman Neil Fallon is a masterful storyteller, or as he calls it, “a professional liar.” A narrator sets the stage with the brief spoken word intro “The Affidavit,” and Clutch take it from there.
“X-Ray Visions” is a glorious opener with thick riffs and driving beat. It’s not a true title track, but the chorus “Psychic warfare is real” is what inspired the album title. After a ripping guitar solo, Fallon slows down the proceedings and introduces the band using their astrological signs before kicking things back into gear. It’s an odd but endearing moment.
Psychic Warfare has the accessibility and raucousness of Earth Rocker, typified in singalong jams like “Firebirds” and “Noble Savage.” Clutch also add darker and more ominous textures that provide depth without spoiling the party.
The band once again worked with producer Machine (Lamb of God, Crobot, Suicide Silence). They work well together, and the album’s tones are impeccable. There’s plenty of bottom end so you can hear talented bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. Machine’s studio is now located in Texas, which may have influenced the funky “A Quick Death in Texas” and the instrumental “Doom Saloon.”
While the majority of the record cruises along at a pretty good clip, Clutch slow down the tempo from time to time. “Our Lady of Electric Light” has Fallon in troubador mode, accompanied by guitars that are sometimes shimmering,other times twangy. One of the things that makes Clutch so appealing is their ability to shift from balls out rock 'n' roll to more subdued and subtle styles.
Psychic Warfare is a tour de force that saves the best for last. Album closer “Son of Virginia" is about twice as long as any other track and makes the most of all seven plus minutes. The song starts off countrified and mellow before the heaviness kicks in, eases back and then takes off. Fallon’s vocals on the song are diverse, ranging from a subdued croon to full out belting, testifying to his musical congregation.
After the song ends, the narrator returns, bookending the album. If you haven’t got on the Clutch train yet, Psychic Warfare is the perfect place to board. It’s the sound of a band that’s mature enough to put their musical talents to optimum use while still keeping the party going strong until the break of dawn.