"Strange Cousins from the West" is the 9th full-length studio album by US hard rock act Clutch. The album was released in July 2009 by Weathermaker Music. Since "From Beale Street to Oblivion (2007)", Mick Schauer (Hammond Organ, Hohner Clavinet and Wurlitzer Electric Piano) has left the band and as a result Clutch are down to the original four-piece again.
...Mick Schauer´s departure also means a slight change in sound as the use of keyboards/organs is very sparse on "Strange Cousins from the West" compared to their omnipresence on "Robot Hive/Exodus (2005)" and "From Beale Street to Oblivion (2007)". "Strange Cousins from the West" generally features a more stripped down and raw sound with bass, guitar, drums and vocals as the main ingredients. While both predecessors are charming and warm bluesy hard rock albums, I enjoy that the band have produced a more raw album this time around. The more raw sound production further enhances that experience. It´s in the detail department though as Clutch still sound unmistakably like Clutch. Hard rocking bluesy riffing, a strong rythm section and Neil Fallon´s deep and strong vocals in front.
"Strange Cousins from the West" features some absolutely killer tracks like the opening trio of songs: "Motherless Child", "Struck Down" and "50,000 Unstoppable Watts" and of course THE highlight of the album "Minotaur". The latter is one of the darkest and heaviest tracks yet by Clutch. Unfortunately like on most Clutch releases the album settles a bit towards the end with some more standard tracks. There´s nothing bad about those tracks, but they are not of the high standard of the best tracks on the album.
...so a couple of tracks into "Strange Cousins from the West" I´m ready to give this album a full 4 star rating, but towards the end it´s a 3.5 - 4 star rating. A great album that could have been even greater had all tracks stood out like the best tracks do.