Any band with the stones to call an album Pure Rock Fury and write a song called "Frankenstein" has gotta be kidding, right? Moody, threatening, and invariably heavy, Clutch is dead serious. Bottom line is that this group has been in the stoner-rawk vanguard for over a decade, though wide-ranging, non-rock elements are what make that bottom line so valuable. Late 2002 saw Clutch deliver sledgehammer covers of classic tracks by album-rock dinosaur Jethro Tull and hardcore pioneer Black Flag. But the group's most telling revamp is on the way in Trane Into Extremes: A Tribute to John Coltrane, which the kings of overdrive launch with a mellow, mesmerizing performance of JC's "Equinox."
Musical variety has always been their calling card. Though metallic New York hardcore influenced the band's caustic early work, Clutch quickly turned down the path already navigated by Black Flag and Corrosion of Conformity, regressing from punk to the group's '70s rock roots. As Clutch's music increasingly leaned toward gearhead fare, it incorporated more avant-garde counterpoints, as evidenced in the mounting number of solos in the group's repertoire. Delfeayo Marsalis contributed a trombone piece to 1998's "Crackerjack," and 2000's Jam Room captured more-conventional live guitar and drum jams, in addition to a harmonica solo in "Big Fat Pig." On record and stage, singer Neil Fallon's story-driven raps are closer to Ted Nugent than to Kid Rock, and closer still to what the Nuge would sound like, fronting Black Sabbath. Clutch's studio work is more succinct, filled with throbbing low-end, wailing six-string action and badass titles like "Smoke Banshee." All of which makes for one hell of a show -- if you remember to bring earplugs.