Clutch – ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’

By Ash Bebbington

If you’re a fan, here’s something you already know; Clutch is one of the most consistently brilliant rock bands in the world. While they may not have reached household name status, they have built a massive cult following that buys the record, turns up to the shows, and cops the t-shirt every time a new album comes out. Their unpretentious brand of swaggering hard rock, brought together by the charismatic vocals and enigmatic lyrics of Neil Fallon is an instantly recognisable sonic explosion and they’ve toured extensively over the last three decades to bring the rock ‘n’ roll show to their fans. While there are subtle sonic tweaks record by record, if you like one Clutch album there’s a pretty good chance they’ll become your new favourite band.

It’s unsurprising, then, that the band’s 13th studio album, ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’, is a stellar addition to their extensive back catalogue. While it may seem strange to treat such a high level of quality as standard, Clutch have set a high bar for themselves over the last three decades and it’s a bar they consistently leap clean over. Also, the fact that a band can create a record of this quality 31 years into their career is a testament to their relentless creativity and songwriting craft. The track ‘We Strive For Excellence’ feels like a mission statement to this effect; despite the longevity of Clutch’s career, nothing but the very best is good enough to make it onto one of their records.

So what makes their songwriting so good? The members of Clutch are capable of bashing out instrumental and vocal hooks like there’s no tomorrow, which they demonstrate superbly across ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’. Every riff is memorable and every vocal line is packed full of character and melody.

Fans of the band will be right at home listening to this record. Expect chunky, blues-laden guitar leads, a pacy, driven rhythm section, and bizarre but superb vocal leads from ringleader Fallon. If that musical style sounds like your cup of tea, you’re probably already a Clutch fan, you just don’t know it yet.

Fallon is one of rock music’s most unique lyricists and once again proves his writing pedigree here. As a writer, he is incredibly tongue in cheek and rarely if ever writes about himself, instead creating new stories and universes within his songs. If he wasn’t a musician, he’d probably make a fantastic fantasy or sci-fi author. In ‘Nosferatu Madre’, for example, he sings from the perspective of a sailor on the Mayflower – a ship that carried colonists from England to what is now the USA in the 17th century – who is cast overboard after being accused of witchcraft.

Fallon also has a knack for coming up with lyrics that are essentially nonsensical but delivering them with such confidence and charisma that they become incredible hooks. Opener ‘Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)’ brings together the words from the title to make one of the album’s most memorable choruses. The bizarre lyrics add a real sense of fun to proceedings. It’s not uncommon to chuckle to yourself while listening to Clutch lyrics for the first time and that’s certainly the case here.

If you’re new to the band, you might be better off trying one of their classic records first such as ‘Blast Tyrant’ or ‘Psychic Warfare’. But even if you do decide to start with ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ you’ll hear the sound of a band that’s three decades into its career and showing no signs of slowing down or dipping in quality.

ASH BEBBINGTON

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