Giving your first album the same title as a certain Swedish act who sit very much within the same style as your own music is a bold move indeed. However, in the case of Norwich’s retro-rocking trio Clan, it quickly ceases to be a factor in the analysis of what it has to be said is an extremely strong and well accomplished debut long-player.
Openly labelling themselves as “The Dead Weather meets Deep Purple with a hint of Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Pentagram” is a pretty confident statement to make with just one demo under the belt, but then again Clan seem to have the ability to rock and roll with enough swagger for those comparisons to shine merrily through. Personally I’d liken their bluesy take on the stoner aesthetic as closer to yesteryear stalwarts like Budgie or Foghat, but there’s certainly a warm and rosy modern Americana to their sound which is reminiscent of acts like Rose Hill Drive and The Answer too.
Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pearce is the focus of much of Clan‘s intelligently composed boogie. The frontman’s silky vocal tones and gently swaying rhythms on the likes of Let It Be and War Paint sound far more established than a band of their youthful stature usually suggests and his riffs are both simple and catchy, yet complex enough to drive the Kyuss comparisons home when they need to be. Ably backed by rhythm section Ben Giller (drums) and Matt Rabong (bass) there’s a tight “band” feel to the Clan‘s approach throughout Witchcraft‘s ten homely tracks. Vultures sways seamlessly from Rush-like progressive tumbles to acoustic meanderings succinctly and with a delicacy that always seems to deliver on its promise to intrigue on this and each subsequent track.
Elsewhere you get the swaggering bullishness of Life To Death which featured on a Metal Hammer cover CD at the end of 2013 and basically sounds like a gospel band possessing the founding members of Kyuss and driving them in a pickup truck back to their generator parties in the desert for one last zombified gig. You get the eight-minute epic The Aging Wizard – a slow-burning trek to the Deep South, stopping off in California to pick up weed and in Sweden to grab some booze for the journey. You also get the more “stoner” fist-pumps of the sublime First Step and opener No Fairytale; both punchy introductions with plenty of dual vocals, plenty of soul and irresistible basslines left right and centre.
Little Headaches is another personal favourite of mine. It’s hippy, trippy drum rolls skit and slide between the ears as Pearce’s “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” slip by like a gentle shower in the early hours and the deliciously fuzzy riffs continue to dance around your mind for an age. It’s a groovy little bastard this one, more a soother of headaches than a creator of one unless you pump it out at some crazy loud volumes. But it’s Great Golden Sun and closer The Death Of Witchcraft which will really steal the plaudits, hearts and minds you thought you’d already devoted entirely to Blues Pills for 2014. The former marries Blues Pills’ sultry aesthetic with some gorgeous Spanish guitar work, some Graveyard-esque hard rock, minimal distortion and Giller’s precision care behind the kit to create a campfire masterpiece in just under eight minutes. The latter is a fragile piano-led folk song, aching with the pain of the album’s fictitious demise. Pearce’s almost whispered vocals sound incredible as he works his way through his full range building the song from near silence to a rousing final sermon.
More of a groover and brooder than a thunderer, Witchcraft is simply a must get if you’re in any way a fan of vintage fuzz rock in 2014. Join the Clan and let them cast their spell in your general direction as soon as you can type “bandcamp” into Google Chrome for the three thousandth time.
Scribed by: Pete Green