The first time I heard Lightning Bolt was over a decade ago. A friend of mine came by the house for an evening of beer drinking and music listening. He had an external hard drive he’d bring over with all of his music on it and would bestow upon me new and exciting bands and albums whilst guzzling IPAs. On one of these nights he let me listen to Wonderful Rainbow by Lightning Bolt. “What is this madness?” I thought to myself. The music sounded so heavy to me that it was bordering on cartoonish. It was like a parody of the heaviest band you’d ever heard, except this two-piece from Rhode Island weren’t a parody. They were the real deal.
Bass player Brian Gibson and drummer/singer Brian Chippendale are prolific and virtuosic players. They play their songs at Road Runner speed; tweaked out death metal that’s equal parts Slayer, Mr. Bungle, and Looney Toons. At first the music seems like too much. It’s an impenetrable force of dexterity, volume, and energy. Once you get past the visceral display, you get inside and see what a truly wonderful world these guys create. What comes across initially as aggressive music seems more like a portal to some other place. Animated and artistic, the musical world of Lightning Bolt is pure art and truly fantastical.
Of course I became a fan after that night of beers. Wonderful Rainbow, Hypermagic Mountain, Ride The Skies, Earthly Delights, and Fantasy Empire all hold special places in my brain. The aggression of a poked bear, but the sensory overload of watching a Tex Avery cartoon on magic mushrooms. On October 11, 2019 Thrill Jockey is releasing Lightning Bolt’s new album Sonic Citadel. From the sound of first single “Air Conditioning”, Gibson and Chippendale are exploring almost pop elements. Albeit, pop music from some far off alternate galaxy where everything is animated and psychedelics are a requirement.
“Air Conditioning” doesn’t lack in any of the speed or dexterous playing we’ve come to know and love with Lightning Bolt. In fact, it feels as direct and focused as it ever has. Gibson plays what sound like power chords on his bass while Chippendale’s drums chug with the swagger of 80s heavy metal. His vocals, while not completely clean, sound less like a guy screaming from inside of a telephone. There’s less animated chaos, and more dystopian hard core punk. Fantasy Empire hinted at this direction musically, and “Air Conditioning” shows Lightning Bolt continuing to evolve their sound into a precise musical weapon.
Check out “Air Conditioning” below, and preorder Sonic Citadel here. It arrives 10/11/19 via Thrill Jockey Records.