The Roundhouse, London 15.12.16

Clutch/ Valient Thorr - The Roundhouse, Camden , December 15th 2016
By Kahmel Farahani
So as we come to the last few gigs of 2016, it's with much excitement and almost no fanfare that Clutch roll back into London town.
Arriving fairly early (and sadly after early support act Lionize has finished) to a well filled Roundhouse I peruse the merch stand before taking up position against a pillar with a  good view.
The night's main openers Valient Thorr kick off with a bang. Imagine early Motorhead or The Damned playing a 70s Hells Angels rally & you would be about right ( they even dedicate a song to Lemmy mid-way through their set). Although tonight's crowd isn't exactly in the moshing mood , front man Valient does his very best to stir the crowd up. What they may be lacking in catchy choruses or variety they make up for in a seemingly endless supply of energy and wild enthusiasm! Dedicating "Double Crossed" to "Everyone who has felt F*"$^ed over in 2016" and trying to start a one-man mosh pit does eventually get the crowd behind them & they leave to warm applause.
"There sure are a lot of people here - I'm getting a little nervous!" - so says Clutch Frontman Neil Fallon in front of a packed Roundhouse. He shouldn't be - Clutch are in total command of the crowd from the first song through to the encore tonight.
Having only recently completed a European tour & with another main-stage appearance at Download festival next year things are definitely looking promising for Maryland's favourite sons.
Clutch have become something close to the best kept secret in rock. Despite being together for 20 years and releasing a succession of excellent albums they have still managed to avoid the popular spot-light. When telling friends I was going to see Clutch the responses ranged from "Who" to "Never heard of them". The band's image (like a bunch of no-nonsense guys on break from the hardware store) may have helped keep them low-key. The fact is that, with no fanfare, Clutch are one of the tightest musical units in rock today.
From the opening lines of "The Mob Goes Wild" the band never slow downs, blending newer songs from last year's wonderful "Psychic Warfare" album with old school grooves like "Prison Planet" and "Space Grass". From the twin guitar shuffle of "Quick Death in Texas" to the almost Motorhead speed & energy of "Noble Savage". Want a suitable song to soundtrack Zombie apocalypse ? Clutch have you covered with "The Regulator" ( as featured in Season 2 of "The Walking Dead").
The band themselves switch pace with a hugely impressive speed - Tim Sult's guitar work channels the best doom riffing of Tony Iommi while bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster keep the groove well and truly locked down the entire night .Front man Neil Fallon is a wonder - With the voice of a fog-horn & the fiery charisma and mannerisms of a Baptist TV preacher, he holds the audience in the palm of his hand all night. "We Get a Lot of requests for this song" Fallon casually says before launching into "10001". The almost funky stomp of "Cypress Grove" hits the perfect note of the night - this crowd didn't come to mosh or crowd surf , but rather groove, dance & smoke a seemingly endless supply of vapes!
After 1 hour and 20 minutes of solid hard rocking , the band wishes everyone a happy new year , promises to "See you next summer" and ,after thunderous applause, returns for a crowd pleasing encore medley of "Electric Worry/X Ray Vision".
Having been become a converted fan with last year's "Psychic Warfare" album this was your humble reviewer's first time seeing Clutch play live and I was mightily impressed.
Will Clutch see much change to their sound or ever reach stadium status? Probably not (you can almost hear the band laughing at the very thought). Will they continue to deliver wonderfully consistent albums and tours for years to come?
Oh yes - almost certainly.
A master-class of pure musicianship with zero frills or gimmicks.
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