With a list of influences that contains some of the most treasured artists in my record collection (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Down, Corrosion of Conformity, High on Fire, Crowbar, EyeHateGod, Mastodon, Clutch,) it was fairly obvious from the start that Westmont, New Jersey’s Clamfight were going to come off sounding like a drunken bar fight between the Southern fried delights of NOLA sludge and the expansive doom and progressive nature of Metal’s founding fathers. Their previous release Vol 1 earned them rave reviews when it was unleashed on the world back in 2010 and showcased the band to be deft song writers who carve out great slabs of stoner and doom and blessed with greater intellect than the ‘woe is me’ generation of metal lyricists, with ‘Swordfishing Is An Ancient And Noble Art’ being one of my contenders for title of the year.
Finally ready to follow up such an impressive debut the band once again turn to Haddon Heights producer Steve Poponi to recapture the thunderous sounds for the new nine track ruckus that is ‘I Versus The Glacier’, a joyously belligerent blend of sludge, thrash and doom that will have you banging your head and bellowing to the heavens. The album is brought to the wider world via New Jersey based The Maple Forum, the official label imprint of the much loved music community The Obelisk, who prove once again they know their stuff as they throw their weighty endorsement behind Clamfight’s latest magnum opus.
If you haven’t heard anything by the band until ‘I Versus The Glacier’ then rest assured they wasted little time bludgeoning you into submission with opening track ‘The Eagle’. It starts with a scream followed by a towering riff, a great plodding huge wall of sound that grabs your attention with its ferocity overlaid with barking vocals courtesy of drummer Andy Martin, but this is no mere blunt force trauma; Among the brutality there is a groove that grabs you and carries you along with the rhythms – you get the feeling that as much as Clamfight like the appeal of being chest beating cavemen, there is far more going on behind their eyes than they want to let on.
This is evident on the follow up track ‘Sandrider’, an ode to the Herbert novel Dune, and sees the band add light and shade to their taught, muscular rock. On top of the up tempo proto thrash riffing that recalls the Motorhead meets Metallica snarl of High On Fire, this track is set alight by a stirring melodic solo from Sean McKee on lead guitar before it morphs into a heavy jam like passage rich on stoner vibes before Poponi perfectly captures the band in full savage tilt.
Having deliberately chosen to pursue a direct and heavy approach to the song writing on this album it would be easy for Clamfight to paint themselves into a musical corner with Martin’s hoarse bellows coursing over the relentless barrage of sounds (not that this would a bad thing on the evidence of the first two tracks) the band have more than one trick up their collective sleeves.
Whilst the rhythm section of Louis Koble (bass) and Joel Harris (guitar) trade blows that at times seems almost punch drunk on ‘Age of Reptiles’, there is an almost Eastern flavour to the melodies of ‘Mountain’ that gives nod to Led Zeppelin and the final moments of the massive album closer ‘Stealing The Ghost Horse’ are almost pure Death Metal. Couple this with lyrics that are bombastic, personal and at times ridiculous, this is an album that weaves stories, dances like a drunken Viking and dares you to surrender yourself to it. Whether singing cleanly or rasping at you like a thing possessed, Martin’s story telling compels you to like this album, the groove and chug tempers, the out and out face melting metal and the dashes of melody flavour it with relief and show off an ability to write tunes to fall in love with (or at least put on when making love to your buxotic women…).
Get over to The Obelisk, get over to their bandcamp page, at time of writing there was only 43 physical copies left of the limited run and if there is any justice on evidence of hearing ‘I Versus The Glacier’, they won’t hang around.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden