When you've been in the business for the best part of 25 years it would be easy to start resting on your laurels, drifting from show to show, releasing the same tired album every couple of years (not naming any names here, but I bet you're currently thinking of a band that are guilty of this!). Psychic Warfare is the Maryland quartet Clutch's follow up to 2013's insanely good LP Earth Rocker and there are no signs of even thinking about lifting the foot off the gas, let alone following through and slowing down.
Somehow, despite being in my mid-20s, I only really got into Clutch in 2012 - missing the first two decades of their career - but what a time to find them. Shortly after discovering them, Earth Rocker, the undisputed album of 2013, was released to the admiration of an industry desperately in need of a kick up the arse. Now I'm not trying to say that Clutch are the reason everyone has a beard these days, but it's a strange coincidence that that trend started after the release of their 10th studio album. Now, two and a half years later, Psychic Warfare has been released, this time with an air of expectation and anticipation surrounding it.
After a quick intro, X-Ray Visions bursts out of the blocks and within 30 seconds you're reminded that the four Americans that make up Clutch have something special about them. The riffs aren't particularly intricate, yet combined with the pacey drums and catchy bass you're tapping your feet and nodding your head without even realising. This opening track is quite literally massive. Neil Fallon's vocals come from deep within as always and the overall sound is a massive statement of their intent. This isn't going to sit in Earth Rocker's shadow, it is it's own beast.
The greatest attribute Clutch have in their locker is that they make it all seem so easy. Having not had any line-up changes (aside from the coming and going of a keyboardist in the noughties and a vocalist preceding Neil Fallon for a few weeks), the consistency and familiarity that is spread through the band over the years has been well and truly let loose recently. A Sucker For The Witch is a great example of this, with four separate elements, vocals, guitar, bass and drums, coming together in complete and utter harmony to create an excellent and goddamn funky piece of rock. If you can listen to this song without losing your shit you're doing it wrong.
It's not all upbeat, rock tunes on Psychic Warfare though. Doom Saloon/Our Lady Of Electric Light summons the gods of the blues for an epic 5-minute masterpiece that would be at home in any Tarantino style Western. The story being portrayed is a mere side story to the encapsulating music behind it. Building throughout it's 5 minutes it feels like the track is never going to end and that would not be a bad thing at all. It really feels like it could be drawn out into a concept album of it's own. A Mars Volta style, one track album would just about do it justice.
The final few tracks feel like a celebration of everything that is right with Clutch. There are chunky riffs, catchy drums and sci-fi inspired, frankly downright weird lyrics. An example of such comes in penultimate track Decapitation Blues: "Here you've been kicked in the neck by a three legg'd mule". For fans of older Clutch, this fits right up there with 10001110101's "Robot Lords of Tokyo, SMILE TASTE KITTENS!". The only downside to the album is the final track, though it does serve nicely to calm the blood back down after the 40 minutes that have preceded it.
So, there we have it. The follow up to one of the greatest albums this decade is an undoubted success. So much so the band have been playing it in full (with some hits mixed in for good measure) on their UK tour with nothing but praise for their sets. Album number 11 from Clutch and yet another step towards the legendary status that surely awaits them?