And that is saying a lot, believe me, as I pretty much regard Clutch’s 2004 effort, “Blast Tyrant” to be a rock’n roll masterpiece, not to mention one of my all-time favorite albums, and I know that a lot of Clutch’s fans feel the same way. When I first heard Robot Hive/Exodus, I was of the opinion that it was good, but not quite as good as their last release. Lately, however, this album has grown on me something fierce, and I felt compelled to write up a review to try and explain exactly why.
Whereas Blast Tyrant feels more direct, “punchier” if you will, Robot Hive/Exodus feels more bluesy, even gospel-tinted, by comparison. The album flows very smoothly, partially because nearly all of the songs fade from one into the next, and in part due to the fact that they simply complement each other extremely well.
Make no mistake, though. This is one hard rocking beast of an album, replete with Jean-Paul Gaster’s jazzy drumming, Dan Maines’ funky basslines, Tim Sult’s fuzzy guitarwork and Neil Fallon’s wonderfully weird lyrics and gravelly vocals. Indeed, Fallon displays his mastery of the microphone once more, and seems to be more comfortable with his role in the band than ever, as he slides effortlessly through the band’s grooves and guides the listener through gleefully absurd apocalyptic visions, robot revolutions (and revelations), and an increasingly surreal colosseum on the song “Circus Maximus” (“Every time I open my window, cranes fly in to terrorize me.”, “Tipping cows in fields Elysian”, “Celebrities and tentacles regard the beast with two backs.” and so on..). You’d be hard pressed to find a cooler doomsayer anywhere.
And then there is the newcomer to the band, one Mick Schauer, whose understated keyboard and organ playing adds a whole new dimension to the band’s sound. It’s hard to picture the songs on this album working without Schauer’s contributions, which lend the whole album, as well as Clutch’s sound in general a new flavour and allows them explore new musical vistas. After listening to RH/E extensively, I’ve found myself sorely missing it when going back to their previous albums.
The band seems more confident on this album than ever before, and therein lies part of its charm. The songwriting feels tighter here than it has on previous albums, and there is no shortage of sublime, groove-laced hard rock passages to be found here. The standout tracks for me, aside from the two opening tracks would have to be “Gullah”, “Pulaski Skyway”, “Never Be Moved” and “10,000 Witnesses”. I seem to be able to listen to these songs pretty much anytime, anywhere, and not get even remotely tired of them. But honestly there isn’t one track on this album that I would want to skip over (the two delta blues homages at the end of the album took the longest to grow on me, but grow on me they did), and that to me is the mark of a truly great album.
Just about all of the songs included here are infectious to say the least. Even as someone who usually never feels inclined to sing along to anything, it is really hard to resist here. If you don’t have a silly grin on your face, or at least a small smile after spinning this disc, you are beyond all hope. To put it simply, Robot Hive/Exodus is every bit Blast Tyrant’s equal and, in my humble opinion, even better, as it will no doubt stay with you longer. If you like rock and roll in any way, shape or form, there simply is no excuse for not having it in your collection.
And yes, it has cowbell on it.