Personnel: Neil Fallon (vocals, guitar); Tim Sult (guitar); Jean-Paul Gaster (drums).
Audio Mixer: Machine .
Recording information: The Machine Shop Recording Studios, Austin, TX.
Editors: Jeff Henson; Alberto De Icaza.
Growth can be tricky. For some fans, this change is bad. If a band sounded a certain way on its debut, then naturally, it should sound like that forever. However, natural evolution can't be stopped, especially for a band that has been together for a long time. Perpetual road dogs Clutch have been around for over two decades, weathering grunge, surviving nu-metal, and yet remaining a headline draw. On their 11th album, Psychic Warfare, Clutch continue the sonic journey perfected on their 2013 success story, Earth Rocker. Gone are the sludge and muddy lurch of their early-'90s albums -- which established them alongside Primus and Faith No More as the thinking geek's version of meathead rock. How far things have come in two decades. As the bandmembers have grown together, they deliver -- almost effortlessly -- a most well-oiled machine. Psychic Warfare includes super-tight interplay, madcap (and thematically heady) lyrics, and high-octane riffs that often translate with face-melting power in their live shows. Fans of the Earth Rocker sound will revel in the second track, the de facto opener "X-Ray Visions," a blast of sci-fi paranoia and chugging riffage; the windows-down, muscle-car booster "Firebirds!," and the pummeling "Noble Savage," a lightning bolt of rock & roll designed to split open the mosh pits. The rest of the album, however, may reward diehards with some retread to past territory. While Earth Rocker was a rollicking, breathless trip, here Clutch dip back into some old-fashioned jams ("Sucker for the Witch," "Decapitation Blues") and more space for breathing room and exploration. The band even teases with a taste of serious funk on "Your Love Is Incarceration" (complete with cowbell and slap bass) that demands the lower lip jut; it is that funky. The centerpiece of the album is the epic Wild West sprawl of "Our Lady of Electric Light," which meanders gorgeously through the sonic desert. The guitar and drum solo in the middle is especially captivating. Sonic sibling and spooky album closer "Sons of Virginia" ends the album with a dirty country twang and similar Southern-fried vibe. Both tracks are goosebump-worthy, an evolution not many could have foreseen in the early stoner days of elephant riding and transnational speedways. Change is good. Growth is necessary for survival. Fans should not be disappointed. ~ Neil Z. Yeung