So, Clutch have just finished touring the US with Hellyeah. Seemed like a really odd combination of bands to me - Clutch are certainly a thinking man's hard-rock band, whereas Hellyeah are more of the beer-drinking and hell-raising variety. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy them both, but it's an odd combination. Even odder is the fact it's a co-headline tour... Hellyeah have barely 5 years on the clock and 2 albums to their name (with a third pending), whereas Clutch have over 20 years and a pretty impressive back catalogue.
I mean, of course I'd go if they toured it down here, but I doubt that's going to happen.
Grumbles aside, one highlight of the tour - from what I've read - is the fact that Clutch have debuted a bunch of new songs and used the tour as a chance to road-test and fine tune them, in advance of a possible new album release later this year.
From what I've heard so far on YouTube, all the signs are pointing towards this being a ripper of an album.
(credit to the diligent posters on Clutch's official message board Sassafras Cove for tracking all of the videos down and of course thanks to the good folks who posted them in the first place)
Newt Gingrich was one of the first tracks to be performed - as early as last year. The main riff is huge, but equally impressive is the way bassist Dan Maines anchors this track brilliantly. It combines the up-tempo vibe of Freakonomics with the more hard-rock attitude of the Blast Tyrant era. Great chorus too: "Mind yourself as you walk out the door... the wolfman is coming out". Could potentially be as huge for them as The Mob Goes Wild (and not dissimilar either).
Pigtown Blues debuted in mid-2011 as well and is soon to get a limited vinyl-only release - so it's not clear whether or not this will appear on the new album or whether it's just some special rare thingamabob. It sounds like this was written around the time the band were putting together Basket of Eggs for the Blast Tyrant reissue - there's a real Southern vibe to it which also recalls Steve Doocy and Box Car Shorty's Confession.
Crucial Velocity starts out reeeeallllly doomy - the guitar tones recall Clutch's very earliest material, before some great tempo changes - shades of the up-tempo aggression of Burning Beard and the stomp-rock of Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes) are both recalled at times. Possibly my favourite of the new material thus far.
Cyborg Betty has a real up-tempo boogie vibe to it and one has to wonder if this track was originally conceived alongside some of the Beale Street material given it also comes with a healthy dollop of blues. Really nice guitar work and a great solo from Tim Sult here.
Rush the Face's initial segment is a bit sparse although I think this is partly to allow Neil's lyrics to come to the fore... he clearly hasn't lost his knack for fantastic, cryptic lyrics with gems like "1000 chessmasters thrown into the sea... religion and liquor, they lost their minds". Which then later evolves to said chessmasters rising up from the sea. How does he come up with this stuff? Anyway, there is a pretty sweet riff a bit further along. This one feels like it might still be slightly unfinished, but the alternative explanation is that the band are planning a concept album a la Blast Tyrant and that this track is intended to serve more of a lyrical than a musical purpose in that regard.
There's always some guy yelling 'Spacegrass'. Fortunately, on the live video below, the band instead play Earth Rocker which is jagged and impetuous and a little bit Steppenwolf. The audio quality isn't great but initial indications are that the chorus is of Electric Worry-like proportions.
"Come on, rock on! Everybody hear me now
Come on, rock on! Everybody get the message
British Intelligence comes complete with MOAR COWBELL! This one is a hard-rocking track that really has Neil to the fore with an aggressive vocal delivery a la Cypress Grove.
Night Hag originally didn't grab me - good, but not amazing - but there is a pretty cool solo from Tim about halfway through.
Last, but by no means least, is Puerta Abierta. A serious ass-kicker of a track this one - the whole band is really in full flight here with each member neatly showcased around a scorching main riff and a great solo section.
This isn't all either - other tracks to have reportedly surfaced include Nuevo Doom and Brass Tacks. By my count that's a total of 11 tracks - and who knows what other demos or partly finished tracks might be lurking. Between European festival dates and some US headline dates, they're unlikely to be back in the studio for a while. We might be waiting a little longer for studio album #9 but I suspect it will be well worth it.