There's a statement of intent in the sequence of an album's opening one-two punch. There's Harvey Milk's The Pleaser, a title reversal of set 'em up ("Down") and knock 'em down ("Get It Up & Get It On"). There's the hearty, two-middle-finger salute to metalheads everywhere of Celtic Frost's Into the Pandemonium — in which the band pounds a curveball cover (Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio") into the moaning "Mesmerized." Clutch's Earth Rocker starts with one of the strongest one-two punches in recent memory, with the funky, booty-shaking title track (go ahead, listen to that first) followed by the side-eyed hard rocker "Crucial Velocity."
Two decades and 10 albums into its career, the Maryland band has made its most straightforward hard-rock album to date. The group's more extensive forays into the blues and jam-band territory are reined in here (save the surprisingly quiet "Gone Cold" and a delightful go-go beat in "D.C. Sound Attack" that works so, so well), and the result is a leaner, meaner 44 minutes, propelled by Neil Fallon's massive Southern bellow. True to its title, Earth Rocker will move the earth beneath your feet if you aren't already moving them yourself.
Earth Rocker comes out March 19 on Weathermaker Music.