(2015) Noise-rock, Punk rock, Experimental
Rhode Island noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt’s new album Fantasy Empire is exactly what fans and listeners expect and hope for from the bombast and relentless driving blend of grooving bass riffs and fluid drumming. Since their debut in 1999, Brian Chippendale (drums) and Brian Gibson (bass) have consistently released aggressive and wonderfully melodic albums accompanied by intimate and highly spontaneous live shows. Like other famous duo acts The White Stripes or Death from Above 1979, lightning bolt pumps out driving grooves and catchy riffs, but in a much more experimental fashion. The duo’s concept approaches odd time signatures, unconventional song structure and crazy repetition. Fantasy Empire benefits from this formula that has blasted ears for two decades.
The two opening tracks, “The Metal East” and “Over the Rive and Through the Woods,” deliver catchy distorted bass riffs and drums slamming immediately to a head-nodding fast tempo rhythm. Chippendale’s signature vocals chime in amongst the chaos to structure changes with heavy delay and jarring psychedelic effects. From these two tracks alone, Lightning Bolt have definitely improved on the mixing and engineering from previous albums, but it doesn’t compromise their raw, gritty, fuzzy sound.
This intense frenzy of the band’s sound really stand strong in in the track “Mythmaster.” The minimalist approach of repetitive drums over a droning lo-fi bass accompanied with long, distorted chanting from Chippendale sounds primal, pumping, and anticipating. The song cuts to moments of swirling, delayed vocals over explosive blast beats which eventually lead to probably one of most intense pieces of instrumentation from Lightning Bolt’s sound. The swirling effects and blast beats crescendo and crash into a heavy breakdown that you can imagine straight from an abrasive live set from the band.
With the short interlude song “Leave the Lantern Lit,” repetitive pitch-shifted loops allow for a relaxed break from the noise. The track ends abruptly with the last two remaining tracks “Dream Genie” and “Snow White (& the Seven Dwarves Fans)” which are the most hectic, multi layered tracks on the album. “Dream Genie” continues the Bolt formula with gusto. Gibson’s bass riffs really stand out as a constant onslaught of catchy licks and riffs that compliments the sudden drum changes tremendously. Chippendale’s relentless rhythm carries the bass to descend into heavier, distorted breakdowns. The closer “Snow White,” delivers an almost 12-minute song of much richer dynamics and experimentation. The opening movement is laid back and settling in a driving bass riff that soon quickens tempo into faster drumming and surprisingly catchy vocals. The riff continues until it descends into a very jam oriented finale of improvised drum fills, tempo changes, and distorted effects-laced solos over a driving loop.
Fantasy Empire is nothing new to those familiar with the band. Often repetitive, Lightning Bolt however makes their signature sound work by never holding back and consistently packing albums with energy. The muddled effects, crunchy bass and the delightfully sporadic drumming do not disappoint for listeners who just want to nod their head and get lost in a swirl of catchy noise.
Alex Gougeon is a Toronto-Based freelance Writer, Musician and Videographer who loves everything Film and Music.