It doesn’t feel unfair to call Clutch inimitable at this stage, does it? There simply isn’t another band that does it like they do. After three decades of making the space they occupy in the rock scene indisputably theirs they’ve played with the formulas, injected their brand of effortless cool and turned all the groove-makers up to eleven and beyond with every album without fail.
The Maryland four-piece are embodied by that sense of adventurousness in their music, which never strays too far into the territory of flat-out weird but pushes the borders of quirky over and over. Sunrise on Slaughter Beach, their 12th full length and first in over four years, brings both the familiar and that sense of creative expansion together straight away with “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” being exactly the roaring opener you’d expect from Clutch. All the punching riffs and bass tones are present and correct, with exactly the right amount of on-brand humor to let us know we’re definitely in the right place for the next, unusually short, less-than-forty minutes.
Short here does not mean bad, however; this is an album that has been fine-tuned within an inch of its life. “Slaughter Beach” rolls straight off of our potent introduction to it with matched firepower and a practically physical swagger to it, while the huge, Dungeons & Dragons-themed “Mountains of Bone” bumps along in an atmospheric style that feels like it’s filling the entire air at times. It’s a brilliant bit of big music that feels overbearing but not overwhelming. From here, the Southern-style slowdown creeps in more and more; “Nosferatu Madre” and the standout “Mercy Brown” showcases Clutch turning down the pace and turning up the charm.
The tremendous “We Strive For Excellence” then re-ignites the fireworks barrel with a Motörhead-esque bit of heaviness to make sure we’re still accounted for before some of that boundary-pushing mentioned earlier; the theremin tinged “Skeletons on Mars” providing more space for Clutch to mess around with new sounds and bold decisions to great effect. Finally, the twang returns for the soul-warming “Jackhammer Our Names”, bringing a mellowness that taps directly into the part of our brain that makes us feel good to wrap things up. Like sinking into your favorite chair after a long day of doing weird Clutch-related stuff.
You could put your house on Clutch coming up with an album full of intensely interesting sound, creative lyricism and musical theatrics before even going into Sunrise On Slaughter Beach and win it all coming out of the other side. It’s grand without pomposity, experimental without an inch of fat and underwritten with grooves so thick you could build a bridge out of them. It doesn’t do much new, not new for this band anyway, but Clutch knows exactly how to get your heart pumping and your body moving. I’d ask a friend to check that you aren’t clinically dead if you can’t manage either.