Slowly but surely, the mainstream rock world is beginning to understand why Clutch have been so revered and adored within underground metal circles for the last 20 years or more. Perhaps it was 2013’s incisive Earth Rocker album that clinched the deal: a fearless and focused encapsulation of the Maryland quartet’s trademark sound that also saw their songwriting reach a new peak of efficacy.
If not that, then maybe it’s simply that current tastes have drifted far enough into raucous, bluesy territory in recent times that Clutch’s approach suddenly makes perfect sense. Either way, Psychic Warfare is the perfect way for the band to consolidate their growing allure and to further cement their reputation for being one of the few unapologetic rock bands on the planet that can harness the genre’s past without being slaves to it.
In the past, each successive Clutch album veered away from its predecessor as a matter of principle. This time round, Psychic Warfare remains in the same succinct and bullish territory that made Earth Rocker such a straightforward joy.
Seemingly content to be themselves and leave the wilful experimentation to bands that lack such a strong core identity, Clutch now sound entirely thrilled by their own sound and in total command of its incremental evolution. Tim Sult’s unmistakable riffs and the infectious, elephant’s nutsack swing of drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines wrap themselves around more inspired tales of weirdo America from an increasingly authoritative Neil Fallon.
All sober analysis aside, the best thing about Clutch remains the same as ever: they’re insanely good fun, not to mention heavy enough to shake the walls and witty enough to coax a smile from the moodiest of burly beard-wearers. From the infectious rush of X-Ray Visions (‘Telekinetic prophetic dynamite!’ bellows Fallon) and the blazing Firebirds to the darkly comic Sucker For The Witch and the funky fidget of Your Love Is Incarceration, Psychic Warfare comprises a blur of gleaming hooks and unstoppable grooves, all topped with endless fresh examples of Fallon’s wonderfully idiosyncratic outlaw poetry.
At times woozily psychedelic, at others pointedly punk as fuck, everything from Our Lady Of Electric Light’s pendulous frontier hoedown to closer Son Of Virginia’s pie-eyed, rural ooze screams this band’s refined, instinctive and irresistible brilliance from the rooftops. Clutch are still the greatest rock’n’roll band on planet Earth, and this is another classic.