Music

Clutch: Robot Hive / Exodus

Adrien Begrand

Weirdly enough, Clutch's sixth album sounds more Bonnaroo than Ozzfest. Even weirder, that's a good thing.


Clutch

Robot Hive / Exodus

Label: DRT
US Release Date: 2005-06-21
UK Release Date: 2005-06-27
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Although Clutch emerged from the alt-metal scene dominated by Korn and the Deftones in the mid-to-late '90s, they approached things a bit differently than their peers. While lunkheaded fratboys were moshing to all the downtuned bass and white boy rage that was prevalent at the time, Clutch played the kind of metal that could move every once in a while. Equal parts stoner rock, Southern rock, funk, and blues, the Maryland band were one of the few bands at the time who dared to inject their aggressive music with a sense of fun. Their first four albums, while not huge mainstream successes by any stretch, did earn a rabid cult following, but it wasn't until they joined the DRT label that they began to truly reach their potential, as last year's Blast Tyrant was critically well-received, their riffs of Sabbath-esque doom mixed with a healthy dose of Southern twang, best exemplified by "The Mob Goes Wild" and "Cypress Grove".

While the blues-based jam "WYSIWYG" brought Blast Tyrant to a somewhat awkward close, its lackadaisical, organ-driven sound contrasting greatly from the rest of the album, little did we know it would serve as a hint as to just where this band would go on their next CD. Clutch has always been a band who throws in different sounds on their records, a bloated stoner riff here, a little acoustic country blues there, and in spite of the fact that Robot Hive / Exodus is musically hardly anything we haven't heard before, it's still their most radical departure to date, as the band have actually chosen a sound, and stuck with it. As a result, it's not only Clutch's most consistent album, it's also their best.

You might as well call these guys Bonnaroo metal now. With a full-time keyboardist in tow, the band has gone totally blues rock on us, combining the lithe, blues-based jam sounds of the Allman Brothers with the more muscular, Hammond organ-enhanced riffing of Deep Purple, performed with the maniacal energy of the North Mississippi Allstars. Instead of coming off as a stale Black Crowes imitation, Clutch approach a once-tired sound with audacious vigor. With a mad gleam in their collective eyes, they have dared to do the unthinkable: bring together be hippies and the metalheads for one nutty party.

Tim Sult's guitar work is much less heavy than in the past, and more lively, as he adds plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd style flourishes instead of simple power chords. Also, singer Neil Fallon is gradually getting away from his lower-register bark, in favor of a more mid-range, yet still robust sound, making his vocals much more accessible to new listeners. However, that's not to say that Robot Hive / Exodus doesn't have any meat on its bones,; in fact, the album gets off to quite a muscular start. "The Incomparable Mr. Flannery" is nestled in a nimble groove, as Fallon howls about "Delaware Destroyers rockin' with Dokken." The ferocious "Mice and Gods" comes closest to equaling the heavier songs in the band's back catalog, but it's the brilliant "Burning Beard" that highlights the album's first half. Boasting a pummeling, stuttering riff and bassline, Fallon takes center stage; a dude who has an uncanny knack for combining hilariously surreal stoner poetry and cultural commentary, he is in rare form on this track, spewing such inspired lines as, "Shadow of the New Praetorian/ Tipping cows in fields Elysian."

It's when you hear Mick Schauer's Hammond stabs on "Never Be Moved" that the album starts to seriously head into blues rock territory. After the funky "10001110101" (probably the only song you'll ever hear that includes a chorus of shouted binary code), Clutch is in full-on jam band mode, as four tracks, the Booker T-meets-cowbell instrumental "Small Upsetters", the slinky "Circus Maximus" and "Tripping the Alarm", and the fiery testimonial "10,000 Witnesses" all segue into one another, making for a 12-minute suite, one with nary a dull moment. After the effective blend of mellow organ and swampy riffs on "Land of Pleasant Living", the album closes with two faithful blues covers, in the form of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Gravel Road", and Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talking", the latter bearing a close resemblance to late 1980s Tom Waits, with Fallon's hoarse vocals, and Sult's Marc Ribot-style guitar fills.

Boasting some of the coolest digipak artwork we'll see all year, Robot Hive / Exodus not only builds on the success of Blast Tyrant, it tops every album Clutch has released before, combining everything they've done in the past into one cohesive sound that is as fresh as it is comfortably familiar. It's not a musical direction that will make the mosh crowd happy, but with this music playing, they'll probably be too busy dancing to bother complaining.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image