The Nine Circles ov… Clutch


Hailing from Maryland, Clutch has been around since 1991 and has amassed ten full lengths, five live albums, two compilations, five EP’s and two video albums. Quite the discography but really to no surprise as the band is, and always has been, a collective workhorse complete with touring schedules that would make anyone’s head spin. With their eleventh full length a mere two weeks and change away, now is as good a time as any to give them some love with this edition of The Nine Circles ov… that focuses on their studio albums.

“A Shogun Named Marcus” (from Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes & Undeniable Truths, 1993)

The lead off track from their full length debut is akin to a freight train with the unrelenting riffs, marching cadence drumming, and Neil Fallon growling his vocal lines. This isn’t the fastest track the band has done but it is among the heaviest and is extremely catchy which always has been a Clutch signature.

“Profits Of Doom” (from Blast Tyrant, 2004)

This is one of my favorite Clutch albums for a lot of reasons but this track sums up why. Starting with a syrupy bass line then sinking into a spaced out guitar riff, followed by Neil spitting some of his trademark lyricism and delivery that reminds you of a Sunday sermon, this one is once again catchy and an overall good time feel track.

“Tight Like That” (from Clutch, 1995)

With a simple, driving percussion line, a psychedelic rhythm section, and near crazy sounding vocals this track has always been among my top five of theirs. This is one of the first truly deep seated grooving tracks I ever heard from the band and to this day no one can do this kind of sound better. Also an immense treat in the live setting, Neil’s persona is larger than life when he gets into this one.

“Drink To The Dead” (from Pure Rock Fury, 2001)

This album is a mix of groove, melodic sensibilities, and weight. I’ve always leaned more towards their heavier tracks and this one fits the bill. Jean-Paul Gaster turns in a fantastic drum performance here, it’s the driving force throughout and loud in the mix. Otherwise, the riffs and chunky chords resemble the tone and mood of doom metal. Not the best vocal performance but when the music is this good it really doesn’t matter.

“The Incomparable Mr. Flannery” (from Robot Hive/Exodus, 2005)

Arguably one of the catchiest and most sing-along tracks in the band’s history. This one is an uptempo rock track with shout outs to REO Speedwagon, a primer grey Camaro, and rockin with Dokken just to name a few. It borrows from some of the best classic rock but with the Clutch spin. The spiraling downward riffs and piano in the background just make you want to move something. Classic Clutch.

“Eight Times Over Miss October” (from The Elephant Riders, 1998)

The senses are awakened by Neil’s screamed introduction combined with a loud guitar and heavy percussion. Sliding into a slinky shuffle with Dan Maines’ bass riffing paired with the downtuned guitar chords propel this one into stoner infinity.

“The Face” (from Earth Rocker, 2013)

Not quite as full speed ahead as the other tracks on this album and with a somber tone in the riffs, this is an album pick for me. It features one of the best choruses in recent memory, melodic gang vocals, and infectious riffs. The track also features another top notch drum performance that sounds as though there are at least two drummers in the way the cymbals are just demolished.

“Struck Down” (from Strange Cousins From The West, 2009)

Upon the release of this album, the band was on their own label, Weathermaker, with no changes in sound, however, as this track proves with its mesmerizing guitars and danceable drum lines. Neil is yet again in ‘sermon’ form throughout. With a spacey sounding middle comprised of angular drumming and fret play it’s not hard to tell the band was having fun here.

“Ghost” (from Blast Tyrant, 2004)

Like I said, this album is my favorite and “Ghost” is just another reason why. The band doesn’t do ballads but this one starts out like one. More like a western type of feel really, with an acoustic guitar and atmospheric background. Deep sounding vocals lend to the established ominous tone. Then the rock begins and is classic Clutch, from the astounding lyrical genius of Neil and the molasses thick riffs so prevalent in their work. Back and forth between quiet and loud it truly has a dark mood to it. Just another bullet on the belt for why Clutch has been a constant for me.

The Nine Circles ov Clutch on Spotify

The musicianship of the band coupled with Neil’s elite level wordplay and vocal delivery are just a couple reasons why they have been around as long as they have. If you have yet to dive into the band this will be the perfect springboard for it. May I also suggest hitting up a show. Seriously, these guys burn the house down everywhere they play. Clutch boasts damn near a perfect discography that runs the gamut of heavy, rock, jam band and just plain old balls out good time tunes that I’ve enjoyed for years, my hope is you’ll do the same.

– Josh

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