01. Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone) 02. Slaughter Beach 03. Mountain of Bone 04. Nosferatu Madre 05. Mercy Brown 06. We Strive for Excellence 07. Skeletons on Mars 08. Three Golden Horns 09. Jackhammer Our Names
CLUTCH has been in gear for a little over 30 years. Their new effort, "Sunrise on Slaughter Beach", closes the longest gap between their thirteen albums, their first since 2018's "Book of Bad Decisions". It is an album that's nuanced yet streamlined, true to form and desirably adventurous.
CLUTCH has indeed stayed the course along its comfortable yet challenging trajectory, never taking any drastic left turns, though progression and noticeable change has been evident over time. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster — still accompanied by his high-school classmates Neil Fallon (vocals),Tim Sult (guitar) and Dan Maines (bass) — was initially under the impression that "Sunrise on Slaughter Beach" would have been a counterpoint to the divisive volatility and anxiety-ridden nature of the ubiquitous pandemic, expecting that the release might be more upbeat along the lines of 2013's "Earth Rocker".
What actually came to be, however, is something far more divergent from what the band has crafted in many years. Sure, artists regularly arrive at a point of conclusion that deviates from their initial intentions, but with CLUTCH, there's a sincerity in artistic hunger and pursuit that's almost tangible, and "Sunrise on Slaughter Beach" showcases that childlike curiosity and growth. Specifically, the varied, nine-song release boasts a few first-time elements from the act: Gaster employs the vibraphone, longtime associate and producer J. Robbins contributes the theremin, and Deborah Bond and Frenchie Davis provide backing female vocals.
"Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)" starts things off with a cutthroat, up-tempo hard rocking surge that rides the wave of stoner rock with a couple of seventies-esque moments of pensive reprieve. "Slaughter Beach" follows with a gritty drive, augmented by the relatively lo-fi production, that properly supports Fallon's monstrous hard rocking voice. "Mountain of Bone", meanwhile, makes the most of CLUTCH's ability to play with negative space making the overall sound absolutely gargantuan and all-consuming. "Nosferatu Madre" takes the groove to an even higher level with its sludgy, Southern, SABBATH-like bounce that surrounds an absolutely infectious chorus section.
"Mercy Brown" properly injects an unexpected element with the aforementioned female vocals and the overall mysterious, meandering flow of the song. Then, CLUTCH turns the heavy dial up to 11 with the chest-slapping, uplifting beast "We Strive for Excellence", the album's heaviest track, which marries MOTÖRHEAD with Southern attitude and a touch of doom metal. The track features Fallon's fieriest and intense delivery. "Sunrise at Slaughter Beach" isn't a long album by any means, but it is a lot to take in. If it can be compared to a long day's work — at a job that one enjoys, of course — then "Jackhammer Our Names" is the glass of whiskey that serves to unwind at the end of the day. It's potent, passionate and dramatic, yet calm and mellow in contrast to the bulk of what preceded it. It's also got a touch of Tom Waits sleaze injected into its veins.
The burly hard rock mavericks really outdid themselves. "Sunrise on Slaughter Beach" encompasses so much with regard to style and changeups within individual songs, and yet CLUTCH unleashes them in a focused, cohesive manner, which makes it all sound easy and straightforward. With "Sunrise on Slaughter Beach", CLUTCH continues marching to the beat of its own drum, while simply remaining one of the coolest heavy bands around.
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