One of my New Year resolutions was to get back into attending concerts. I did not take in any during 2013 save for a local hardcore band called Harsh a few days before my birthday and the invigorating night on the town immediately reminded me of all the great things rock 'n roll is capable of in a live setting. Thus, it seemed especially appropriate to start off the New Year by finally catching Clutch live.
|The Legend of the Spaceborne Killer album cover|
The Sword is one of those groups Recluse has always felt that he should dig a lot more than he does. When the Austin, Texas quartet first started out in the mid-00s there sound was heavily influenced by Dio-era Black Sabbath and Sleep as well as the thrasher tendencies of High on Fire and Black Cobra. Their first two albums --Age of Winters and Gods of the Earth --were enjoyable enough releases featuring the type of fantasy-laden imagery and lyrical topics this author is usually a sucker for. But something about the band just didn't click.
The cover, designed by acclaimed comic book artist J.H. Williams III, is in fact meant to depict Isis standing over an apocalyptic world. The Eye of Horus appears upon Isis' hooded forehead while she makes the "silence gesture" generally associated with the god Harpocrates, who in some accounts is her son and/or grandson. To say that this image is symbolically loaded would be an understatement. As I'm sure many of my readers are well aware, the goddess Isis is hugely important in the Mystery schools of the ancient Mediterranean.
"The most illustrious of all Ancient Egyptian goddesses, Isis is depicted searching for her murdered brother and husband, Osiris, whom she restored to life with her breath...; Suckling her son, Horus; or in funeral procession protecting the dead in the shadow of her wings and bringing them back to life. From her faithfulness and devotion, she would appear originally to have been a hearth-goddess, but, according to legend, she 'obtained the secret name of the all-powerful god,' Ra, and became his equal in power, spreading her influence across the universe. Every living being was a drop of Isis' blood. In fact, Isis was worshiped as the all-powerful universal goddess all around the Mediterranean Basin, as devoutly in Greece and Rome as in the Near East. 'I am the mother of the whole of Nature, mistress of the elements, the origin and principle of the ages, the supreme divinity, queen of the shades, the first of the dwellers in the sky, the unrivaled model of all the gods and goddesses. The pinnacles of the sky, the beneficial sea-breezes, the desolate silences of hell, I rule them all according to my will...' All esoteric groups regarded her as the mystagogue who held the secrets of life and death and resurrection. The ankh was the symbol of her boundless power. In all mystery religions of the early centuries of the Christian era, she was the embodiment of the female principle and sole magic source of fertility and transmutation."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 544)
"The word Apocryphon came up while I was researching Gnosticism, early Christianity, theosophy, and other esoteric subjects... They're books that were either banned or removed from the biblical canon. The early church fathers felt that these teachings were either too advanced or dangerous for the masses to be exposed to because they encouraged thought that was antithetical to the church’s system of control, so they were considered heretical and dubbed apocrypha. You've got to look beyond what you're told to the totality of knowledge available to approach any sort of true understanding."
Unfortunately The Sword's set was mired by a poor sound mix: Cronise's vocals were all but inaudible for much of the set. It's a really pity, because the combination of a surprisingly elaborate light show and the prominently displayed Mystery symbols created quite the atmosphere. The band was otherwise professional and their increasing use of synthesizers gives the group an even more pronounced Blue Oyster Cult feel at their most sinister. The song "Apocryphon", which closed both The Sword's set as well as the album of the same name, was quite striking thanks to the triggered use of synths throughout. They set the scene perfectly for a song steeped in Gnosticism, as the opening verse makes clear:
Even more striking was the crowd's reaction to Neil Fallon's lyrics: practically the whole audience sang along to every song throughout the set. Recluse has never been around a crowd as in to a band's lyrics as the one he encountered at the Freebird show. Despite the fact that the set was heavy with tracks from Earth Rocker, everyone seemed to know all the lyrics to whatever Clutch performed by heart. Given that Fallon's lyrics frequently reference cryptids, underground bunkers, aliens, Men in Black and political assassinations as well as mythological beings and the occult, this made for quite a surreal scene.
Fallon does his part to emphasis his lyrics to the crowd as well. Throughout the show he frequently used exaggerated hand gestures to play up his words, at times recalling the motions of orators from Ancient Greece or Rome, an art know as chironomia. The crowd was not to be out done and frequently mimicked Fallon's hand gestures --People were even hoisted up on other's shoulders to do this.
"Escape From the Prison Planet" has inevitably been co-opted by Alex Jones, but we shouldn't hold that against the song. It name checks Bob Lazar in addition to Men in Black, alien technology and an opening verse that at times feels like my day-to-day life. Clutch also performed "I Have the Body of John Wilkes Booth" from the self-titled as well, a song that alludes to the various conspiracy theories surrounding the possible escape of Lincoln's assassin as well as the creeping reemergence of fascism ("And I swear its never been like this before/Least not since 19 and 44") in modern America. At another point in the set Clutch performed the song "Abraham Lincoln" off of 2009's Strange Cousins From the West, a most fitting touch.
|Lincoln and the Civil War have been alluded to frequently in Clutch's lyrics of the years|
"A subscriber states that just because we don't understand how Bigfoot move in and out of another dimension or what their purpose is, doesn't rule out this possibility. He has questioned a variety of people that channel interdimensional beings and every time the answer turns out that Bigfoot are indeed interdimensional beings as well. There are many other beings that can move in and out of another dimension including fairies, gnomes, sprites, and others. Indigenous people worldwide will verify this as they have strived to maintain to keep their connection to earth and the natural beings while the ‘civilized’ world has nearly completely lost touch. Only young children and intuitive adults are able to see/feel these beings as they move in and out of other dimensions. It’s time for us to wake up to this possibility regardless of what conventional wisdom and science has to say about the matter. The evidence is there…time to become open to a broader perspective.
"Well known paranormal investigator Jon-Eric Beckjord’s theories sum up much of the argument. He believed that Bigfoot and similar cryptids may be interdimensional beings that can occasionally take physical form for brief periods of time, but have the ability to ‘fade out’ and pass through ‘wormholes’, possibly to other dimensions or parallel universes. He reported to have had one of the creatures speak to him using telepathy, communicating the words ‘We're here, but we're not real, like what you think is real’.
"Beckjord claimed that such entities may be able to actually disappear into thin air, or even shapeshift. Beckjord maintained that the interdimensional hypothesis may possibly, if proven, explain why there are thousands of alleged Bigfoot creature sightings each year, yet no dead zoological physical body is ever found. To evidence these ideas, Beckjord accumulated a large collection of enlarged photographs that he says show, among other things, ‘half-Bigfoots’ and ‘invisible Bigfoots’, or possible aliens. The forms are often found in situations where the camera picked up images not seen by the witnesses, often due to distance. According to Beckjord, the images show primates, carnivores and beings not readily identified within known zoological classifications that resemble descriptions of aliens submitted to investigators. He conducted much field work, such as camping out at ‘window sites’ where, he said, Bigfoot activity is frequently seen. He collected his own photographic evidence of what he believes to be a ‘tribe’ of either Bigfoots or aliens at El Dorado National Forest."
In Clutch's hands the Yeti is depicted as a creature perpetually traveling through time:
During the performance I saw Clutch rearranged the verses, performing the final two (written out above) at the onset of the song, further enhancing its high strangeness. The song was carried into an extended jam that seamlessly evolved into "D.C. Sound Attack" off of Earth Rocker. It was easily one of the highlights of the night.