Heavy rockers Clutch and The Sword hit Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg on May 1
From a press release:
Almighty riff masters Clutch will be hitting the road for a mammoth North American tour of hard rock and heavy metal this spring, split across two legs.
The first leg of the 38-date run will feature special guests EyeHateGod and Tigercub. The second leg with The Sword and Nate Bergman of Lionize will kick off in Burlington, Vermont and hit 16 cities, including Stroudsburg on Sunday, May 1 at the Sherman Theater.
“We’re looking forward to hitting the road and playing for you this spring!” Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster said. “We’re bringing some great bands with us too, so come out early and rock and roll with us. See ya out there!”
Doors at the Sherman (524 Main St., Stroudsburg) open at 6:30 p.m., and the all-ages concert starts at 7:30 p.m.
Formed in 1991 in Germantown, Maryland, Clutch built a local following through constant gigging. After releasing the classic 7-inch single “Pitchfork,” the band – Neil Fallon (vocals), Tim Sult (guitar), Dan Maines (bass), and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) – caught the attention of Earache Records, which released their legendary “Passive Restraints” EP. Shortly after, East West Records signed the band. Their debut LP, “Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths,” followed in 1993.
A self-titled album appeared two years later on Atlantic Records and afforded Clutch their first mainstream exposure as the label released a trilogy of psychedelic-tinged singles – “Big News,” “Spacegrass,” and “Escape from the Prison Planet.”
A lengthy and very successful North American tour with Marilyn Manson put an exclamation point on this early part of their career.
The group jumped to the larger Columbia label for 1998’s “The Elephant Riders.” They rejoined the Atlantic ranks in 2001 for their fourth studio album, the six-figure-selling “Pure Rock Fury,” and enjoyed their first Top 40 single, “Careful with That Mic.” A year later, however, the band was tortured with label problems, and it was three years before the sonically brilliant “Blast Tyrant” was released by indie label DRT Entertainment.
In the meantime, the band had self-released the studio album “Jam Room” and their first concert recording, “Live at the Googolplex,” on their own River Road Records. These two pieces would eventually surface through Megaforce Records a few years later.
The 36-month period from 2004 through 2007 saw heavy, nonstop touring of North America and England, mainland Europe, the Scandinavian territories, and Australia. The band was now in top playing shape and writing the most challenging material of their career. With a decade of experience behind them, Clutch was now passing or outlasting most of their mid/late ’90s contemporaries.
Their seventh studio album, 2005’s “Robot Hive/Exodus” (DRT), produced by J. Robbins, was another breakthrough release, showcasing a diversity most rock bands could never dream of pulling off.
2007’s “From Beale Street to Oblivion” took off where final track of “Robot Hive/Exodus,” “Gravel Road,” left off. A hardened, simple blues approach with power took the former Germantown High School compatriots to the next level. The album’s lead single, “Electric Worry,” wasn’t just another successful Top 40 rock single, with its anthem-like chorus and high-energy guitar jam/drum solo climax making it an instant Clutch classic.
In 2008, the four band members and longtime manager Jack Flanagan began forging plans for the Clutch owned and operated label Weathermaker Music. Initially self-distributed, Weathermaker quickly found a home at Sony/RED Distribution. Since 2013, the label has been distributed via Rough Trade Distribution/Believe and its subdistributors in Europe.
Clutch’s ninth studio album, “Strange Cousins from the West,” was released in 2009. It debuted at No. 37 on the Billboard charts, initially becoming the bestselling release of their storied career.
In 2013, Weathermaker Music released “Earth Rocker,” which went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Hard Rock Albums chart, No. 6 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums, and No. 15 on the Billboard Top 200. Described as heavier and faster than the preceding albums, it was followed up by their 11th studio record, “Psychic Warfare,” in 2015. That album reached No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on both the Hard Rock and Rock charts.
On Sept. 7, 2018, Weathermaker released Clutch’s 12th and latest album, “Book of Bad Decisions.” which charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hard Rock charts and came in at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 while simultaneously entering various European and Australian charts. Rolling Stone described the record as “bathed in the grit and liberal fuzz tone that have made their live shows legendary.” Clutch had become recognized as one of the best rock acts of the modern era. Both “Earth Rocker” and “Psychic Warfare” were included in Classic Rock Magazine’s “50 Best Rock Albums of the 2010s.”
Decades of global touring have been one of the main drivers of their success. Whether in club shows around the world or big festival appearances on several continents, fans love and continue to support this band. In 2019, they embarked on a successful co-headlining tour with Dropkick Murphys and support from Hatebreed, Amigo the Devil, and Russ Rankin of Good Riddance.
The global pandemic may have halted the band’s live appearances over the last 21 months, but Clutch is now back on the road, with a new album expected this year.
Hailing from Austin, Texas, The Sword draws from a wide array of influences and hard rock genres. First conceived in 2003, the band hit their stride about a year later when founding vocalist and guitarist J.D. Cronise joined forces with guitarist Kyle Shutt, bassist Bryan Richie, and drummer Trivett Wingo for a much-raved-about appearance at Austin’s famed SXSW festival. National touring stints with everyone from Clutch to indie rock darlings And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead followed and, by 2006, The Sword released their highly anticipated debut album “Age of Winters.”
From there, they went on to release seven studio albums; tour with the likes of Metallica, Lamb of God, Trivium, Kyuss Lives, and Opeth; and see their music reach millions through placements in the “Guitar Hero” video game series (“Freya”) and the cult classic film “Jennifer’s Body” (“Celestial Crown”).
Over their nearly 20-year career, The Sword has proven themselves to be one of the most prolific and revered bands in metal – not only by fans, but also by the media and their peers.
“The Sword blew my mind,” Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich exclaimed. “The best music always sounds like it threads through, and is part of, some sort of lineage, some sort of continuity, some sort of history, but always with its own additional X factor. … For me, they were one of the few with that aforementioned additional X factor, so we should absolutely celebrate their inspirational music.”
“The Sword was a band I had been waiting for,” Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton recollected, “a band that I wished I was in… a heavy blues, acid rock, psychedelic, intergalactic riff paradise. In my estimation, The Sword was the perfect blend of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Sleep, and Clutch… somehow familiar yet incredibly fresh at the same time.”
“The phrase ‘world building’ is usually reserved for science fiction and fantasy, but I think you could apply it to The Sword as well,” Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon observed. “The lyrics and music capture the spirit of what first attracted me to heavy metal – namely, the escapism. There’s only a handful of bands that do this convincingly, and The Sword is one of them.”
In 2020, The Sword simultaneously unsheathed two career-spanning collections, both showcasing the technically dazzling, riff-heavy, and far-reaching metal that the heavy group has been known for.
“Conquest of Kingdoms” is a three-disc vinyl collection of rarities and oddities (a truncated digital version is also available), while “Chronology 2006-2018” is a three-CD set which – in addition to the rarities – also includes tracks hand-selected by The Sword from each of their studio albums.
Before they hit stores, Cronise described the differences between the two formats and the methodology for compiling them.
“The CD package will be more of a career retrospective, with selections from each of our albums as well as the rarities and B-sides and things – sort of a mini box set, you could say. The set will include a booklet with essays and photos to make it special and extra. Whereas the LP release [“Conquest of Kingdoms”] is more streamlined, with just the B-side and rarities material. Personally for me, that’s what’s exciting about the releases. A lot of that stuff I never thought would see the light of day but I always thought was really cool and was proud of. That’s what I think is exciting about it.”
Richie felt that it was simply the right time to put these albums out and to revisit what has been a stellar career thus far. Assembling “Chronology 2006-2018” was a no-brainer; the band had an abundance of fan favorite tunes from which to cherry-pick.
“We’ve got all these exclusive 7-inches and a split record or two that were pressed in 1,000 quantities – maybe people heard those tracks on a YouTube stream in not really the greatest quality,” he noted. “As the band had gone on hiatus, we had this wealth of material to share, including live sets – things that were sitting on my hard drive for years, things that were given to me at shows. It seemed like the right time.”
Some of the oddities included on both “Chronology” and “Conquest” include various covers, such as their take on the KISS classic “She” and Pentagram’s “Forever My Queen,” previously only heard live.
“Nobody was asking us to contribute tracks for tribute albums, and we didn’t want to put cover songs on our studio albums – it didn’t seem natural for us to do that,” Cronise said. “But at the same time, we’ve always covered a lot of stuff live because it’s fun and the audience likes it. I think our fans will dig that they can now hear those versions.”
The process of putting the two collections together offered the band members the chance to evaluate their work up to this point and assess their organic evolution, including changing drummers from Trivett Wingo to Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III.
“We were conscious of that when it happened,” Cronise continued. “Especially getting into the middle portion of our catalog. We were very aware at the time when we were doing something that sounded different from what we had done before. But listening to it all together, the thing that a lot of people don’t mention is what a drastic difference changing drummers made. It’s really such a huge thing. They’re both awesome drummers but very different, and it had a huge effect on our overall sound.”
Richie believes that the band became more focused as they progressed, allowing the songs to breathe.
“Later, we explored the idea of the song to its fullest within the song, rather than a bunch of different versions of the same song within the song. You work through a time where you do that. You jam everything in, trying to make it as visceral as you can. It’s only natural that at some point you scale that back, have a more omnipresent, reflective view of what you’ve done and what you’re hoping to do.”
Before the global pandemic, The Sword was set to join Primus on their Farewell to Kings Tour performing Rush material. They are eager to get out and support these collections with Clutch in 2022.
“I’m always ready to play riffs with my dudes, so we’ll see where it goes from here,” Richie said. “Maybe The Sword will come out of hibernation every once in a while to play some shows or tour – whatever it is, I’m here for it. Hopefully, it’ll become a thing, virus permitting.”
“We still are all friends, we still enjoy playing music together, we’re still proud of what we’ve done,” Cronise added. “And this is what we do, so if anybody wants to pay us, we will come and play the show. I’m still proud of it, I still love it, I still love that people are still into it, and I’m more than happy to talk about it and play the songs for people.”
This post was compiled by the staff of NEPA Scene.