Desert Storm has been getting mixed receptions across the net. While the word on their their debut album, Forked Tongues, has been almost unanimously positive, there have been an equal number of naysayers for their particular style. The unavoidable comparison to Clutch, with like grooves and similar vocals, which to some is a praise, to others it seems to be their downfall. As the majority of the complaints are that they sounds a little too much like Clutch. Ed over at Doommantia had their sound a little more varied, comparing them to Clutch, Down and Orange Goblin, giving a little more variance but still keeping the underlying Clutch theme and it being a negative (he has sense changed his outlook a bit, upping the albums rating in the comments section of the post). I know reviews are opinions and everyone has their own, but this is not my outlook.
To me the Clutch references, while accurate, are nothing but a good thing. Even before reading Ed's review, or knowing much at all about Desert Storm, when I heard the first two tracks of Forked Tongues the comparisons slap you in the face. The instruments are all heavy groove, down-tuned, and jamming, and the vocals are deep, with a hint of growl. These first couple of songs, and the last three or four, could have easily come off of a Rare and Unreleased album by Clutch, coming from the era between their debut album, Transnational Speedway League, and their follow-up, Clutch. The only part that truly stands out, as an individual band, is the inclusion of a female on vocals; it adds a simple nuance to the track or two she is a part of. While it doesn't make any really big changes or contributions to the overall sound, it's an added layer that really stands out in my mind.
The middle tracks, the four or so that don't have such an overwhelming Clutch sound, coming across more as the Down reference that Ed made, are the low point of the album to me. I could see that if people had a problem with the closeness of sound of Desert Storm and Clutch, how these would be their favorite tracks, because they do go into a different direction sonically. They are much more guttural in vocals, more heavy in music, and rely on a solid rock 'n roll underlying theme. The songs are still pumping, but they come across more as sludge then straight-forward stoner, which is not what I enjoy overall. It adds another layer to their sound, trying to diversify their portfolio, and reach a broader audience base. Can't say I like it, but I can't fault it either.
Now that the overall review of the group and album are complete, I can say a thing or two about the criticisms of their sound. Obviously Clutch was their main influence (one of the bandmates claims not to hear it, but we all know it's there), hell I make mention of the band more times then I do of Desert Storm, but is that really a bad thing? I could see if you weren't a real Clutch fan (I don't mean real as in a hardcore fan, but real as in enjoy listening to them), then having another band sounding the same would be unappealing. Also, I hear those of you who don't like when bands sound too similar, citing 'cookie cutter' acts and whatnot. While I agree with the aforementioned sentiment, I am also a huge Clutchophile (lover of Clutch), so anything that sounds like these gods of the scene is A-ok by me. Maybe this makes my view and review a little bit one-sided, but these are my tastes. I want to hear more Clutch, and while I don't necessarily like the overall direction the group has taken in the past few years, I still will get any album they release.
Forked Tongues is a throwback to my favorite era of Clutch, when they are borderline groove metal, with stoner influences. My only hope is that for Desert Storm's next release, that they follow suit and move more into the field of Blast Tyrant or Robot Hive/Exodus. But after the whiplash they have received in the reviews, we can be certain that their follow-up will move into the opposite direction, to leave behind their obvious influences, and while they may still release some amazing music, I like them where they are. No fault in their style in my eyes.