The always hard to categorize Clutch are becoming even more hard to categorize with each passing album. These guys are both hardworking and relentlessly creative. This disc is a little less metallic and more experimental than their last outing, the great Blast Tyrant. However, that old Clutch heaviness is still plentiful here, especially in the neckpain-inducing “Burning Beard” and the strangely angular “Circus Maximus.” The best aspect of Clutch’s approach is the jam-oriented interactions between the disarmingly funky basslines of Dan Maines and the off-kilter stoner-metal riffs of Tim Sult, built upon drummer Jean Paul Gaster’s driving and genre-jumping rhythms. Meanwhile, singer Neil Fallon sounds more and more like he’s drowning in oppressive political and religious demagoguery, and this describes both his cryptic lyrics and his riot-inciting vocals.
The biggest development for Clutch here is the addition of fulltime keyboardist Mick Schauer, who has been fully integrated into the band’s sound, instead of just adding ornamentation. This has pushed Clutch further into an unmistakable classic rock and blues sound, evident in the surprisingly no-nonsense tunes “10001110101″ and “10,000 Witnesses.” There are even a few snippets of balladry here, like in the verses of “Land of Pleasant Living.” Most unexpectedly, the album ends with two reverential 12-bar blues workouts. The first is a lyrical cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Gravel Road” on top of slammin’ Clutch-created blooze mayhem; this is followed by a full cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking.” You might just think that Clutch is evolving into an older and wiser blues band (albeit a strange one), but I bet they’ll add a new element or three to their sound on the next album. [~doomsdayer520~]