Music aficionados will see plenty of bands coming and going in their time, so whenever an artist reaches double digits in any regard it’s a commendable and respectable effort. Heavy Maryland four-piece Clutch spent their 23rd year as a band in 2013 releasing and touring their tenth studio album, Earth Rocker. Their first studio release in four years, the album was a welcome return for Clutch to their cult-like fanbase – high on blazing guitar licks and hellhound vocals, low on filler.

“The fact that we were able to release our tenth album this year was such a highlight for us,” says Tim Sult, the band’s lead guitarist and a founding member. “People seem to be really into it. We can go out and play shows where we play all 11 of the new songs that we’ve written. The fact that we can keep going out and doing what we do after all these years – I’d say it’s the highlight of my career. It’s not like we’re a band who people only like the first few albums of, you know? We’re lucky to be able to continue to write songs that people react to and take to heart.”

The album picks up where its predecessor, 2009’s Strange Cousins From The West, left off. This isn’t a coincidence, either – despite the lengthy gap between albums (the longest they’ve ever had in their discography), Sult traces the writing of Earth Rocker right back to the months after Strange Cousins was released. It was more or less a matter of life getting in the way – extensive touring lead to extensive breaks so the band members could spend time with their families.

“For us, it didn’t feel like this huge gap between releasing new albums. We just kind of lost track of the time. There’s definitely a lot of fresh stuff on Earth Rocker, though. We’re constantly writing new material, we’re always throwing out new ideas. We might dump it, we might keep it. You never know what’s going to happen.”

In the spirit of keeping things fresh, Clutch released a special edition of Earth Rocker last month as a double-LP picture disc set. Entitled Earth Rocker Live, the set consists of the album itself and a recreation of its tracklisting using recordings from live shows. “Our drummer JP [Jean-Paul Gaster] cherrypicked the best live versions of each of the songs on the album,” says Sult. “Basically, you’re getting two different versions of the album – how we recorded it, and how we’re playing it live. It looks really cool, too – our art director, Nick Lakiotes, really knows how to capture the aesthetics of what we do.”

Australian audiences will get their chance to hear Earth Rocker for themselves when the band returns in February for the Soundwave Festival. It was the same festival where Aussies last saw them back in 2010 – and Sult enthuses that the whole group is raring to return. “It’s always been absolutely amazing coming over there – I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad show over there,” he says. “This will be our sixth time, and every time we’ve gone over it’s been an amazing experience. Even the days off are fun!”

Before he can go any further, Sult is cut off by his young son asking an indecipherable question. Excusing himself, Sult offers a solution to whatever the problem was – “Just flush it!” he says – and then returns to wrap up. Clutch: Overlords of riffs, interviews and parenting. What more could you want?

BY DAVID JAMES YOUNG

Clutch play Soundwave Festival 2014 withGreen Day, Avenged Sevenfold, Alice In Chains, Placebo, AFI, Korn, Newsted and more at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday February 23. Clutch also play the Metro Theatre on Thursday February 20.

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