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Music Review: Clutch – Blast Tyrant [2-CD Reissue Edition]

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If there has to be one word to describe the long and thriving career of Maryland hard rockers Clutch, it has to be “consistent.” Whether it is mosh pit-inducing rockers like “Passive Restraints” from its beginnings in the early ’90s or “Animal Farm” and the groovy riffs of “Big News I” from its classic self-titled mid-’90s disc, the title track to 2001′s Pure Rock Fury album, or “You Can’t Stop Progress” from 2007, there is no shortage in this band’s discography of tracks that just plain rule.

With nine studio albums to its name since 1993, everyone has a favorite Clutch record (though its first and last studio albums, the more dissonant-sounding ’93 debut LP Transnational Speedway League and the back-to-basics bluesy hard rock of 2009′s Strange Cousins From The West may rank lower than the others). Its sixth one, 2004′s Blast Tyrant, happens to be this reviewer’s top choice.

This past May, the band reissued it on its very own Weathermaker Music label, complete with an 18-paged “Atlas of the Invisible World” art and lyrics booklet and a 10-song bonus CD, subtitled “Basket of Eggs,” which is named after the track of the same name that appears on the group’s Jam Room album, which was released in 2000. It contains rare demos and acoustic performances of songs on the album and deeper album cuts.

Guitarist Tim Sult and crew come out firing on all cylinders on opening track “Mercury,” which starts out with a long instrumental passage chock full of mean, thick and ferocious riffs before vocalist Neil Fallon takes command at the top of his lungs. The part-political, part-protest rock cut “Mob Goes Wild” was a minor hit in modern rock radio seven years ago and is still an album highlight, along with the southern rock-ish hard rock and danger zone lyrics of “Cypress Grove.”

Other favorites include “Profits of Doom,” which is bass-heavy and contains some pseudo-psychedelic vocals, along with the moderately paced rock of “Promoter (of Earthbound Causes),” with its standout out-there and humorous lyrics like “A little bit of Ritalin goes a long way,” and the all-out rock jam of album closing instrumental “WYSIWYG” that includes some colorful Hammond organ passages.

The bonus disc has many terrific and rare treats, including some acoustic tunes, including the bluesy cover of Cousin Joe’s “Boxcar Shorty’s Confession,” “Tight Light That” (which is from Clutch’s classic 1995 self-titled CD), and an equally cool and swingin’ bluesy run through Blast Tyrant cut “The Regulator,” which was the first Clutch song to have acoustic guitar on an album in the first place.

Other highlights of this rarities disc include a demo of “Cypress Grove” called “Cattle Car” that features radically different lyrics and a fairly different musical arrangement, a near-equally different take on “Army of Bono,” here called “Walpole Man,” and a raw demo of “Promoter.” The guitar solo on “Walpole Man” in particular stands out, as it is trippier than the one that made the album version (as “Army of Bono”).

With the sole exception of “Drink to the Dead,” which was recorded for a Milwaukee radio station in 2001, all the acoustic tracks were recorded last September and this past January, while the five demos were put on tape in July 2002. It’s about time these special performances and demos saw the light of day.

In all, there isn’t a weak track among the 15 on the original pressing of Blast Tyrant, or among the 10 cuts on the “Basket of Eggs” bonus CD. This is Clutch in prime form, simply put. As a result, I give this release a rare perfect score.

About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.