For those who know Clutch and know what type of band they are, Psychic Warfare should no need small talk or explaining or trying to sell you this album. Clutch, I think, are a criminally underrated and, very often, an overlooked band at that. They have been around for 24 years with the band celebrating their 25th Anniversary in 2016. They have a great wealth of older material to get your teeth into to fully introduce yourself to the band if you do not know them (and I really think you should).
I discovered them after one of my Dad’s friends from work recommended them. We had, on a number of occasions, passed albums back and forth between each other, almost like the peer-to-peer mix tape swapping days of old, and through him I had discovered many albums and bands that later became personal favourites. Through this friend – his name was Andy, I do remember – I had first discovered Opeth and Arch Enemy. Andy, wherever you are: thank you.
I went onto the internet after my Dad told me what Andy had said and found such as albums as Blast Tyrant and Robot Hive/Exodus to check out. The former had just been reissued (at the time) in 2011 with a bonus disc (titled “Basket of Eggs”) and extra tracks, whilst the latter was reissued two years later with a bonus DVD and other assorted goodies.
I first bought Blast Tyrant as a means of trial and error — would I dig the band or not? — and then later Robot Hive/Exodus (one of those albums I’m scratching my head at as to where I bought it…), From Beale St. To Oblivion, Strange Cousins From the West (the one album where it took time to click) and then Earth Rocker. I saw the band live as they toured through London on their Earth Rocker tour and they were nothing short of excellent. Definitely one of the best bands I’ve seen live.
Earth Rocker was a great album and nothing more — again there is no point trying to oversell the point. Clutch is one of these bands – like many metal bands such as Motorhead or Iron Maiden – that you can rely on to be consistent. Earth Rocker also gave the band new fans and it gave Clutch a wider audience, which is all good — the more fans the better, right? Produced by Machine, who had previously worked with the band, he was able to help the band really create a rocking solid album. Plus the old age saying applies to Clutch: if it’s not broke, why fix it?
The main question was did the band feel any pressure as they began recording the new album (optional question mark, ?, can be placed here if you want): a larger audience, a bigger demand for tours and to go to certain cities, and definitely with a great album such as Earth Rocker, the band could try and match it, or make something better. When the band finalized the artwork, release date and title, “X-Ray Visions” was the first song released online. After hearing this I was like “OK, this is Clutch after all, I’m fine about this.”
The band, via their Youtube channel, began to release short clips focusing on a few songs from the album (with vocalist Neil Fallon commentating) and different aspects of recording this album — guitars, drums, vocals, bass and why the band chose Machine to produce the album though, in fairness, I think it was a no brainer. Through watching these clips, it became apparent that I needed to buy this album.
The album begins with “The Affidavit” which is a short 25-second intro. Neil, in one of the Youtube episodes that I mentioned above, talked about how they were near some hotel on tour and he went into the lobby, recording as he went; someone was playing Jazz, glasses were clinking (all this can be heard in the background) and there was a general buzz of chatter. After a while, the security began to become curious as this fellow entered and went out a few times. He does his best to impersonate Tommy Lee Jones and it sounds like someone making a confession and being asked to “start at the beginning now”.
This immediately jumps into “X-Ray Visions” and by now you’ve heard it. It sounds like instant classic Clutch, very much in the vein of how Earth Rocker sounded. This version is slightly different. Drummer Jean-Paul continues to play after it ends, then he does a really nice fill (snare, kick and toms) which immediately jumps into “Firebirds!”. I have never in my time of listening to music, which has been a considerable time, never heard a better opening to an album — a short intro, an instant in-your-face song, and then another song to provide more sonic goodness.
Track 4, “A Quick Death In Texas”, is slightly slower than the previous two songs but not by much. It’s one of my favourites from the album already. Neil doesn’t tend to write personal lyrics, instead to use his imagination to write stories about fictional characters. Most of this album’s lyrics are that — stories. “A Sucker For The Witch” and “Your Love Is Incarceration” follow-up nicely, with the latter featuring some of my favourite lyrics on the album.
Track 7, “Doom Saloon”, is a short 1:12 segue track. It features a lot of layered guitar effects, with the track slowly building until the next track “Our Lady Of Electric Light” kicks in with a lovely triplet feel or 6/8 if you want a time signature (at least that’s how it sounds to me). It’s perhaps the slowest and brooding track of the album, as Neil’s vocals dance and jive all over this track. It also gives meaning to the album’s figure, which is actually the lady of electric light. Also, listen to Dan’s bass work on this track — just amazing!
“Noble Savage” is one of the fastest tracks on the album. An intro of sorts — snare/guitar/bass, guitar riff, then repeat this a few times — before the song starts. It’s an absolutely fun song to listen to and, if the band play this live on the upcoming tour, I’m sure it’ll get people dancing for sure. “Behold The Colossus”, track 10, is one of my favourites on the album purely for Jean-Paul’s drumming — a lot of two-handed hihat work. The penultimate track, “Decapitation Blues”, is one of those ‘groovier’ tracks that is neither fast nor slow; it sits rightly in the pocket and it’s just usual Clutch.
The closing track, “Son Of Virginia”, is the longest track on the album stretching to 7:15 in length. It’s a slow brooding number, much like “Our Lady Of Electric Light”, and these two numbers can be put forward (at least in my opinion) as the best tracks from the album. It may remind fans of “Gone Cold” from the last album, or even “The Regulator” from Blast Tyrant. For half the song — until somewhere around the 2:30 mark — the song is fairly soft and indeed reminiscent of “The Regulator” with very ‘twangy’ and picked guitar chords. Around the 2:30 mark Jean-Paul does a fill and makes the song generally heavier in tone, with the guitar chords getting heavier too. It sort of switches between the quiet and loud dynamics, with a wonderful multi-tracked vocal line in the chorus by Neil. The guitars fade out with some heavy feedback and it returns to what we heard in the opening track “The Affidavit”.
The man, after a while as we assume the surroundings of piano music, glasses clinking and general hum of chatter, says: “You’ll forgive me if I appear to be somewhat vexed by your statement, however…uhm…if that’s the way you recall it happened, then go ahead and put your name there at the bottom and uh…thank you your for time. You have a good night now.” It gives the album an awesome well-rounded feeling: what started well ends really well.
After giving this album a few listens it’s clear to me that Clutch can do no absolute wrong. I did have hesitations about this record beforehand — whether or not the success of Earth Rocker would make the band falter slightly from the pressure — but on Psychic Warfare the band have delivered their unique and unwavering brand of pure rock’n’roll. Old fans will love this album and new fans will love this album, this in an album for everyone.
OVERALL: Psychic Warfare is a truly fantastic album. There are no bum notes here. This is purely all-thrills-no-frills rock’n’roll. For anyone not new to the band, as I said at the top of this review, I would definitely go back and work your way towards this album. For old fans and long-time fans, this will be surely nothing short of amazing that yet again our favourite band have released another cracking album. There is so much on this album which is fantastic (more than my words can describe) and, for that, I rate it very highly.
RATING: 5 / 5