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Clutch’s new live album can mentally transport listeners

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CLUTCH; "Live at the Googleplex" (Megaforce Records)** 1/2

A live album can make a mediocre band sound alive. But it can also make a good band sound . . . well . . . dead.

There are a few live albums that have managed to do justice to metal bands: Ozzy Osbourne's "Tribute," Black Sabbath's "Live Evil," Testament's "Live in Apocalyptic City," Iron Maiden's "Live after Death" and Metallica's 3-CD box set "Binge and Purge." All of these will snap the neck (which, in the metal world, is a good thing).

The funk/blues metal of Clutch has a new live album from Megaforce Records. "Live at the Googleplex" was not recorded at a venue called the Googleplex. Instead, the 15-track album was recorded at various clubs in Kansas City, Montreal, Columbus and Chicago throughout 2002. While that could have caused a problem with consistency, the album finds a thread of power and links it from one song to the next.

Clutch has always pumped out a raw, no-frills sound, and this album does its best to convey a brutal sound, but with mixed results.

Neil Fallon's throaty growl shifts from force to fury as Tim Sult's relentless guitar finds a foil in J.P. Gater's funky, improvisational drums. Then There's Dan Maines' bass holding the rhythm together.

The definitive "Who Wants to Rock?" is the first track that hits the listener in the face, followed by the fitting "Pure Rock Fury." The energy drops a notch with the out-the-window "Impetus," but finds solid ground with the next track, "El Jefe."

If listeners turn the nobs up to 11 and closes their eyes, they might find themselves mentally transported to one of the those smoky clubs in the Midwest and Canada.

E-MAIL: scott@desnews.com