Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Clamfight - I Versus the Glacier (2013)

Clamfight [ Website | Facebook | Bandcamp ]
I Versus the Glacier
The Maple Forum

Clamfight - I Versus the Glacier
The New Jersey music scene doesn't necessarily conjure up thoughts of Southern-styled stoner rock. Nor does the name Clamfight, for that matter. The two taken together tend to make me think of something punk or riot grrl in nature, but these four fellas from the Jersey side of Philly offer up a sound that shares a close kinship with bands such as Clutch, Kyuss, and The Sword. I Versus the Glacier, the band's sophomore full-length release, is a groovy slab of heavy with a dash of sludge thrown in for character.

Clamfight's overall sound is rooted in the classic guitar stylings perfected by some of heavy metal's progenitors - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, even a hint of Thin Lizzy can be heard now and again. Sean McKee and Joel Harris, Clamfight's two axeslingers, excel whether in tandem or breaking out for an individual lick or solo. Lingering primarily in the lower reaches of the six-string spectrum, the riffs on I Versus the Glacier are muddy, groovy, and varied enough to easily avoid the pitfalls of stagnation. McKee and Harris routinely add yet another layer of appeal by tossing around classic, blues-influenced solos to give the album a strong connection to the familiar sounds of the NWOBHM movement. "Sandriders", a song written in homage to Frank Herbert's Dune, exemplifies Clamfight's marriage of stoner rock and classic heavy metal. The urgency to the riffs stands in sharp contrast to drummer/vocalist Andy Martin's mellow beats, lending the song a sort of multifaceted charm that's tied together by a few crisp solos. On "River of Ice", Mckee and Harris rely predominantly on crafting hypnotic, reverb-laden riffs to generate a muscle-relaxing groove. Heightening the "chill" factor are some barely discernible leads, making this track my favorite mood-enhancing ride of the album (next to the instrumental "The Green Gods of Yag").

The more psychedelic elements typically associated with the stoner style are actually quite rare on I Versus the Glacier. Besides "Rivers of Ice", Clamfight's only outright foray into the tangled forest of trippiness occurs during the final moments of the title track. Initially, the swirling, nicely varied riffs fit in perfectly with the album's overall classic metal feel - even parting the veil to allow for a couple of brief, bass-heavy breakdowns. Without warning, however, the straightforward structure melts away to be replaced by a synthesized sensory explosion.

As enjoyable and relatively familiar as the music is on I Versus the Glacier, one crucial element to the band's sound sets Clamfight apart from many of their peers - the vocal style of drummer Andy Martin. Existing somewhere between sludge and black metal, Martin's voice is a raspy reminder that Clamfight is consciously working to carve out their own niche within the genre. Martin enunciates well and isn't as abrasive as some of the sludge-slinging singers out there, but for me the appeal of I Versus the Glacier was checked just a bit by the caustic contrast. Album closer "Stealing the Ghost Horse" does finally find Martin interjecting a clean, doomy style to his performance, but the record as a whole would have been stronger if that element had been introduced earlier.

I Versus the Glacier is an admirable addition to a stoner rock genre that has benefited from a recent swell of newcomers. In an attempt to bridge the distance between sludge fans and fans more accustomed to no-frills heavy rock, Clamfight blends in a number of heavy elements to create a potion that is certainly intriguing.

Track Listing
1The Eagle6:10
3Shadow Line3:43
4I Versus the Glacier5:37
5Age of Reptiles4:02
6River of Ice6:16
8The Green Gods of Yag4:59
9Stealing the Ghost Horse6:56
Total Runtime48:15

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