HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Clutch - Robot Hive/Exodus

Messy titles like that tick me off, but it does have a certain Beefhearted ring to it when spoken - I'da left out the slash. Anyway, the vibe here is a little rougher (and more spontaneous of execution) than was the case for the magnificent but comparatively plush Blast Tyrant release, my top album of last year. Ironically, a keyboardist has been added, yet this is still crunchy. Kinda funny, the band seem unsure about Mick Schauer's role, 'cos he's used sparingly and mixed way back, pretty dumb sounding when he should be central, as on Never Be Moved and Gullah. Anyway, despite the gutbucket blues here and there, most of this rocks rhythmically like old Aerosmith meets Kyuss, y'know, regular Clutch, Neil rapping fine and grizzled, Jean-Paul Tim and Dan creating a righteous Zep IV fwap and flap behind him. The keyboards, mostly a Hammond sound, help make tracks like 'Circus Maximus' sound like a Burn out-take, but I dunno, I would wish for only way more (braver) or none (they aren't really needed). Fallon is still the coolest lyricist in rock 'n' roll operation right now, and the bluesy, even r+b vibes added at least give this one a browner hue, added dynamic too. Fact is, this is a bit of a laid-back, hair down, porch-sittin' Clutch record, and I'm digging it hugely for what it is. It's almost that, again, parallel to that keys comment, I yearn for a certain braveness where the guys could have dropped all the metal and made their Zep III here (although we all conveniently forget that album had three heavy tracks on it - most of a side). Heh heh, good goddamn... I think I have hours of enjoyment with this record good to go.
Rating 9

Delphian - Oracle
(Lion Music)

Hoping to capitalize on the whole Gathering/Nightwish/Leaves' Eyes/Evanescence thing is this new Dutch act. Vocally, you've got one of these cutting, clean, clear pure diva-like vocalists in Aniek Jansses - you're instantly going to surrender to her thing, or hate it, or, like me, kind of cringe and tap along warily. But hers is a smart band, especially come album highlight Never Willing, Still Fulfilling, a bit of a duffer until its hugely gorgeous chorus. Elsewhere, the band is firmly, nicely mid-paced and very powerful, and a number of accomplished proggy things take place - 'Moments' is a minor masterpiece. But yes, from Sentenced to Swedish thrash, there's an insistent power chord pulse to this thing, the dressy bits coming just when you kinda wish them to.
Rating 7

Hard Reviews Page 3