It does feel like an extraordinarily long wait for Clutch’s thirteenth album. Of course, there has been a global pandemic, war continues to rumble in Ukraine and the world teeters on the brink with its finances – the planet and its inhabitants have had a lot to deal with. In an uncertain world, Clutch is a band that does provide certainty in that there is no turning out half-baked albums and they give it their all in the live arena.
In that sense, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach does not disappoint. It looks like Clutch and it sounds like Clutch and the band has not necessarily reinvented its own wheel or taken any wild, stylistic left turns. At the same time, there are some sweet diversions and experimentation that will have fans new and old nodding in approval.
Opener Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone) kicks away any cobwebs with a high velocity smash and grab tempo and is reminiscent of X-Ray Vision from Psychic Warfare but the pace changes during the mid-section like it was dropped in from outer space (it probably was as the track is influenced by Philip K. Dick) with Tim Sult’s guitar grinding and heading into a short and weird refrain before picking the tempo back up. Slaughter Beach is classic Clutch, layered groove, its mid-tempo is an absolute throat grabber with drummer John Paul Gastor coming into his own with the pacing and the guitar and bass pinning to the beat. Vocalist Neil Fallon holds everything together and yet another perfect song for the live environment that will have Fallon prowling the stage. The bass can be under appreciated instrument, but Dan Maines delivers on Mountain of Bone with a thumping bass beat while the guitar echoes around, but it is another mid paced stomper that puts the guitar central to the song. Mercy Brown adds female vocals which gives the track an interesting spin but the tune along with Nosferatu Madre is relatively standard Clutch fare. With Skeletons on Mars adding the Theremin, and some spaced out mid-section weirdness before heading into a solo, it is the longest track on the album but does has plenty to say.
The word “unfortunately” is rarely used with Clutch albums and this particular one depends on perspective. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach has a running time of 34 minutes over the course of nine tracks which does make it a relatively short listening experience. Rob Zombie once said that he disliked long albums, and his own works would be more in tune with classic albums that he enjoyed that had a short running time. That is fair enough and Sunrise definitely does not outstay its welcome, there is certainly no lack of a journey through the songs, and it is an album that deserves repeat plays.
Some bands are so revered and seemingly can do no wrong, and Clutch does have the back catalogue and the live chops to justify that reverence and there is no other way to say it – they do make it sound so easy. Then again, the band has been around for 30 years and are a finely tuned beast of an act that craft songs rather than write them. There is arrogance here though, Clutch has still delivered an album that has all of their hallmarks but have added other elements, twists and new territory that ensures that the songs remain interesting and Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is an engaging and groovy experience which is unlikely to keep listeners still.
For anyone that could never understand the appeal of Clutch then Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is unlikely to change minds necessarily, but for the curious, the album is as good a jumping off point as any to begin investigating one of music’s most consistent and enjoyable bands. For a everyone else, Sunrise is another classic album that does reveal more and more after repeated listens to the point where it will seem that the songs have been with us forever.