Stoner Rock

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CLUTCH Psychic Warfare Album Cover Psychic Warfare
CLUTCH
4.85 | 11 ratings
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CLUTCH Blast Tyrant Album Cover Blast Tyrant
CLUTCH
4.74 | 11 ratings
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CLUTCH Robot Hive / Exodus Album Cover Robot Hive / Exodus
CLUTCH
4.69 | 9 ratings
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CLUTCH Earth Rocker Album Cover Earth Rocker
CLUTCH
4.55 | 11 ratings
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SPIRITUAL BEGGARS Earth Blues Album Cover Earth Blues
SPIRITUAL BEGGARS
4.55 | 6 ratings
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DOZER Through The Eyes Of Heathens Album Cover Through The Eyes Of Heathens
DOZER
4.56 | 4 ratings
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FU MANCHU Daredevil Album Cover Daredevil
FU MANCHU
4.50 | 5 ratings
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FU MANCHU California Crossing Album Cover California Crossing
FU MANCHU
4.50 | 4 ratings
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CLUTCH Strange Cousins From the West Album Cover Strange Cousins From the West
CLUTCH
4.35 | 9 ratings
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FU MANCHU In Search Of... Album Cover In Search Of...
FU MANCHU
4.44 | 5 ratings
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CLUTCH Pure Rock Fury Album Cover Pure Rock Fury
CLUTCH
4.27 | 11 ratings
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CLUTCH From Beale Street to Oblivion Album Cover From Beale Street to Oblivion
CLUTCH
4.26 | 11 ratings
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CLUTCH Sunrise On Slaughter Beach

Album · 2022 · Stoner Rock
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Kingcrimsonprog
Clutch are one of the most consistent and hard working bands in rock and roll. The Maryland Stoner Rock outfit released their thirteenth full-length studio album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, in 2022. It was produced by Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Royal Blood, Pixies) and released on the band’s own Weathermaker Music.

I think its fair to say Clutch have never made a bad album, and although some albums are more popular than others, if you like Clutch you are probably in for the long haul, enjoying something off of each of their varied but always distinctly Clutch-sounding albums. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is a great album. I mean, of course it is, it’s a Clutch album, that almost goes without saying, you know you are going to get a couple of songs you’ll remember for the rest of your life, a load of clever quirky memorable lyrics, some cool guitar/bass lines that get stuck in your head for weeks and exceptional drumming beyond all of their peers… but even for a Clutch album, and the inherent high standards that implies, this is a strong outing.

The first two singles from the record, “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” and “We Strive For Excellence” were so ridiculously strong, so profoundly catchy, so superbly satisfying and intensely memorable that I was convinced this would be in the top their of their discography before it was even released. For weeks (or is it months, my memory is failing) I’ve been listening to those songs multiple times daily, and got into a ritual of not getting out of bed until I’d heard them. With songs this strong, I was guaranteed to love the album, and sort of envisioned another Earth Rocker / Psychic Warfare style all killer, no filler, heads down, hyper focused hard rocking affair.

Their previous album, The Book Of Bad Decisions, was also excellent, but if there was one criticism to be laid at it, this would be that it was perhaps a bit too long and one or two songs could be cut to make it more streamlined. ‘Slaughter Beach seems aware of this, and clocks in at barely half an hour long, with songs that are concise, succinct and have not an ounce of fat on them. Contrary to my initial expectations however, it isn’t the heads don’t pedal to the metal rager I thought it would be, but rather is arguably their most diverse and exploratory album in a decade and a half, although crucially, having learned the lessons from their focused period, this is not bloated, self indulgent or superfluous experimentation the way some critics of the second halves of their longer records might previously have accused them of, the album is a best of both worlds, allowing the band to stretch their wings and broaden their horizons without sacrificing the flow of the album, the efficiency of the song writing or the patience of the more sober listeners. There are some really cool touches, such as soul singer backing vocals, theremin, vibraphone. However, its still just half an hour of the utmost, cleverly crafted, high-quality bangers, rather than the loosey-goosey jamming of say, Jam Room.

There are only nine songs, so its hard to sit here and pick out highlights, as there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t want to hear live or have in a compilation (in fact, on a recent livestream at time of writing, they played every single song from it live, amongst classics from various eras of the band’s history, and it all fit so well), but if forced to pick some stand-out tracks to recommend to new commers, the first three singles are all utterly essential for all new Clutch fans forevermore. A clever blade-runner and pandemic-conspiracy inspired utter fist pumping banger, a truly triumphant tale of young kids building a bike ramp that sounds like the very best moments of the first three QOTSA albums filtered through Fu Manchu’s most catchy moments and Pure Rock Fury’s personality (the bass groove when the cowbell kicks in makes me grin like a schoolboy every time), and a groovey as hell Sabbathy stoner anthem title-track that educated me about horse-shoe crabs having blue blood overused by the pharmaceutical industry to the point of threatening extinction on the species.

Tales of D&D twelve-sided die and chaotic evil, or being accosted in space by an unknown menace to rumbling drums and expansive sounds almost match this for quality, as do ghost and witchcraft stories that are more moody and diverse, but the other real highlight for me is the enormously catchy “Three Golden Horns” with its almost Thin-Lizzy-esque lyrical story telling and super catchy “Jazz Music Corrupts The Youth” chorus. The album ends on a more sombre note, about previous heroes/legends being cast aside as criminals/tyrants by future generations that seems to subtly reference recent turning in political tides towards previously lauded forefathers who are now viewed less favourably due to their problematic deeds, with an almost folky slow drum beat and ghostly guitar lines that sound like the emotional climax of a movie.

This is an album I’ve been listening to on repeat, listening to every day since its release at time of writing, and which I will absolutely rinse for the next few years, if not forever. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Just put it on, get into the vibe, and repeat until in love with it. More highly recommended than water or oxygen!

CLUTCH The Elephant Riders

Album · 1998 · Stoner Rock
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UMUR
"The Elephant Riders" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US hard/stoner rock act Clutch. The album was released through Columbia Records in April 1998. It´s the successor to the eponymously titled album from 1995. While Clutch started out as a hardcore band, and their debut album "Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths (1993)" still featured quite a few hardcore traits, by the time of the eponymously titled 1995 album, Clutch had changed their style towards a hard rock/stoner rock sound.

That style is more or less continued on "The Elephant Riders". Hard rocking riffs and organic rhythms, and Neil Fallon´s commanding powerful voice on top. The band experiment a little with the use of trombone on "Muchas Veces" and "Crackerjack" (...and to great effect on especially the latter), but most of the tracks are relatively simple vers/chorus structured blues based hard rockers. Some more memorable than others, but all tracks are well written and entertaining while they play.

"The Elephant Riders" features a warm, organic, and well sounding production job, which suits the material well. Upon conclusion it´s a quality release in most departments, but the songwriting could have been more memorable, as I don´t remember that many tracks when the album has finished playing. Of course it helps the more spins it gets, but to truly shine all tracks on an album in this style should in my book be more or less instantly memorable, and about half of the 10 tracks on the 51:05 minutes long album aren´t. Still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

EARTH Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons

Album · 1996 · Stoner Rock
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Unitron
After taking doom to its droning breaking point, Earth joined in with the likes of Fu Manchu and Kyuss in perfecting the art of desert rock. The whole album just bathes in warm, raw, and gravely riffs, and it's no better on display than on the classic Tallahasse.

This album couldn't have had a more fitting cover. It sounds like a roaring motor, one that's old and worn, yet never gives up and with care lasts you through any blazing heat. All I see when I listen to this album is driving this sweet green ride across the desert, but it breaks down every so often. I have to keep getting out to get the engine purring again, but it's all worth it for the experience and the sound.

ZEN BISON Krautrocker

Album · 2018 · Stoner Rock
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siLLy puPPy
One of the countless modern bands that looks back instead of ahead, the retro band ZEN BISON formed in Rostock, Germany in 2013 by Philipp Ott (guitar, vocals), Steffen Fischer (bass) and Martin Konopka (drums) and decided to take a trip back to the wild wonderful psychedelic timeline where the a1960s met the 1970s. The band actually started out merely as BISON but since it’s getting harder and harder to score a simple one-word band name these days, the much more interesting ZEN BISON came to be. After the addition of two more members: Hans Kirschner (keys, organ) and Bobby Müller (percussion) were added, ZEN BISON was ready to take Germany down memory land.

As the band’s so far only album title KRAUTROCKER suggests, this is indeed a retro journey into Germany’s past where fuzzy guitar riffs painted a bluesy rock pastiche and slowly drifting jam sessions offered transcendental escapism into the perceived promised paths to ascension. While nirvana may or not be experienced during this album’s 42 1/2 minute run, the authenticity of a retro Kraut album endowed with a knack for divine mimicry will leave you wondering if this was indeed a long lost relic released from the obscurity shelves of some long lost recording studio where the tapes had been sitting for some half century. Indeed everything here passes the test. Trippy album cover art, stoner vibe, spaced out jams with ethnic influences. It’s all here for the Krautrock lovers who just can’t get enough.

The album is bookmarked by two vocal tracks. “Blow My Mind” sounds like something out of the Jimi Hendrix playbook with classic wailing psychedelic guitar riffs that bring a smokey club in 1968 to mind. Philipp Ott delivers the perfect dead ringer classic blues rock singing style with that grizzled Groundhogs meets Grand Funk Railroad stylistic approach. The same goes for the closing “Going Down” which perfectly emulates the late 60s but unfortunately the band is so fixated on mimicry that these tracks sound like mere covers rather than original material. The latter track also adds extensive guitar licks and jamming time as it extends past the 10 minute mark. In fact three of the tracks hover around the 10 minute mark leaving only the first two under six.

“Backseat Lovers” doesn’t deviate from the opener’s hard blues rock only the guitar heft is even louder and more distorted as the fuzz and haze only intensifies. This is also a vocal track. The best tracks are the 11-minute title track which is an instrumental journey into the heady authentically German sounds that one would hear from Amon Duul II or other drugged out mind-bending pioneers of the era. The near 10-minute “La Madrugada” offers a more uplifting treat with Santana inspired percussive drive and a Latin flair that gives a bit of joie de vivre to the otherwise spaced out or balls to the wall heaviness. These two instrumental tracks despite being more pleasant to my ears unfortunately are also quite derivative of journeys already taken but for what it’s worth this is quite a pleasant album to get lost in as it satisfies on all levels however it also doesn’t invite repeat listens either. In the end ZEN BISON is a decent retro band but given these types of bands are a dime a dozen these days, this band will have to find its own voice in the wilderness to really remain relevant.

CLUTCH The Elephant Riders

Album · 1998 · Stoner Rock
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Unitron
"Could'a been a ladybug on a windchime, but she was born a Dragonfly"

It has always been difficult for me to talk in writing about albums I love dearly, and communicating how much something connects with me on an emotional and personal level. Especially an album that isn't just a favorite album, but the all time favorite. For years my all time favorite album was Helstar's Burning Star, an album that I still love a whole lot and is still among my favorites, but not the top. I never thought it'd ever be topped, I was sure it would always remain. The passion and songwriting on that album is fantastic, but The Elephant Riders kept climbing and climbing as time went on and speaks to me in so many different ways.

I've always really liked The Elephant Riders since I first heard it, but I didn't know how much I would come to love it and how much it would inspire me directly as a songwriter and completely change my idea of what lyricism and songwriting mean.

The Elephant Riders has this very homey production, warm and inviting like a nice fireplace on a brisk day. It brings out Dan Maines's fittingly warm and fuzzy basslines to their fullest, and Tim Sult's guitar tones are simultaneously massive like the elephants they're riding and clean like freshly fallen leaves. Jean-Paul Gaster's drums ignite the total groove that all instruments thrive in. Clutch perfects a blend of southern blues and metal that was almost lost when the stupid idea that blues can't make metal came about. These riffs curbstomp that idea. I used to be more closed-minded and didn't like brass instruments, but the horns in Muchas Veces, hidden track 05, and especially instrumental Crackerjack completely changed that with the trombone adding a lot to these already fantastic songs and helped me start to appreciate these great instruments.

This whole album and band brings me nothing but pure joy, but vocalist Neil Fallon inspires me like no other musician has. He can sing beautifully melodic like the 70's blues and metal vocalists that probably influenced him, and also forceful and rough like his grungy and sludgy contemporaries. His lyrics and songwriting though, that's where he has no equal. Abstract, but not in the philosophical sense, this is passionate poetry. These are words and phrases that work and flow perfectly together, even if they don't make any sense. The vocals become another instrument, and as a songwriter myself, taking that approach to lyrics is incredibly fun and rewarding. The lyrics that open this review, from the closing The Dragonfly, are among my favorites on display, but the whole album is a treasure trove of fantastic rhymes and storytelling.

I've rambled enough, art doesn't get any better than this.

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