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Clutch continues 25-year-climb

Once dubbed the Grateful Dead of hardcore, Clutch has straddled the worlds of metal and jam like few artists can.
Once dubbed the Grateful Dead of hardcore, Clutch has straddled the worlds of metal and jam like few artists can.

For a band that’s been around 25 years, making new fans with your 10th album – not the back catalog that established your fan base – is fairly unheard of. Yet Maryland hard-rock stalwart Clutch did just that with 2013’s “Earth Rocker.”

And with 2015’s “Psychic Warfare,” the group that was selling out clubs in the ’90s and influencing a generation of up-and-coming musicians like the Avett Brothers continues that rise.

On Saturday, Clutch plays Carolina Rebellion: the three-day metal and hard rock festival held at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Clutch closes out the gold side stage. It’s one of several similar rock festivals Clutch plays before its return to Bonnaroo as one of that eclectic festival’s token heavy acts.

Once dubbed the Grateful Dead of hardcore, Clutch has straddled the worlds of metal and jam like few artists can, through its tendency to improvise and its migrant following as well as thick riffs and singer Neil Fallon’s growling evangelist delivery.

The success of “Earth Rocker” meant the group had to really deliver on the followup. “Psychic Warfare” is grooving, fast-paced and cinematic, with Fallon’s desert-set storytelling unraveling like a Robert Rodriguez movie.

“We knew we had our work cut out for us,” says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. “We knew we had the right material. I find it to be a more dynamic record.”

Despite the album’s cinematic story, Gaster says “Psychic Warfare” wasn’t conceived as a concept record.

“A lot of the storyline seemed to come together when we went to sequence the album. When we were putting the record together I don’t think (Fallon) had an overall concept in mind. It’s kind of loose and open to interpretation,” he says.

One thing that’s sets “Psychic Warfare” and Clutch’s previous albums apart from its contemporaries is Gaster’s drumming. The four band members got together as teenagers outside Washington, D.C., where the area’s go-go music became part of Gaster’s style – definitely a rarity in the world of hard rock.

“As a junior high student I can remember clearly hearing some of these local hits. I didn’t know they were local hits. Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Sir Joe and the Free Souls, then bands like EU were popular on local radio and at school dances – not that I was going to dance with any girls. I was so much of a dork,” Gaster remembers.

But those dances made an impact.

“That kind of drumming is ingrained in my musical DNA. I had the opportunity to see some of these bands – Rare Essence and Chuck Brown. These drummers were amazing, had such feel, play with intensity, but still in the pocket,” he says. That early influence can still be heard on new songs like “Quick Death in Texas,” which coasts on Gaster’s funky breakdown.

“I heard that before I heard John Bonham. Before there was John Bonham there was JuJu House and Ricky Wellman, who went on to play with Miles Davis.”

Carolina Rebellion

What: The mid-Atlantic’s biggest rock festival will feature performances from more than 50 rock artists playing on four stages, including Disturbed, Scorpions, Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Deftones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, A Day To Remember, 3 Doors Down, Alice Cooper, Bring Me The Horizon, Cypress Hill, Pennywise, Lamb Of God, and many others. The festival will also feature camping facilities, and a “Pig Out BBQ Village” featuring Gourmet Man Food.

When: Gates open at 11 a.m. Friday-Saturday; noon Sunday.

Where: Rock City Campgrounds, 7301 Bruton Smith Blvd., Concord.

Tickets: Three-day pass, $235; two-day pass, $185; single-day pass, $140.

Details: www.carolinarebellion.com.

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