Lightning Bolt – Earthly Delights

Calxie #2: Axe murderers: albums that could have killed the guitar. Nominee 3 of 4

Play the first track from ‘Earthly Delights’. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a guitar, right?”. And here ladies and gentlemen is the third nominee in the category of “Albums that could have killed the guitar” which slips past the filters on a paper-thin technicality. The violent, ploughing, mudslide melodies you’re hearing are in fact being gouged out by a bass (not a guitar in the true sense). Everything about Lightning Bolt seems to be pure chaos and yet listen closely and you’ll still find substance, hypnotic melodies and avant-garde jazz influences. While it may sound closer to the in-the-red parts of Metallica (a band I am less than fond of) than any of Miles Davis, structurally it’s almost a condensed Philip Glass. Of course, what you hear is what you hear, and what you hear is a barrage: a meaty, blood-thirsty battle of two instruments – drums and bass – tearing each-other apart. It’s at once energising and narcotic as you can get lost in the throes of it all. Basically, when you buy Lightning Bolt’s new record, you knew what you were getting.

On their fifth LP ‘Earthly Delights’, the duo make things more sinister than before. Occasionally they change the tempo from their usual super-fast amphetamine nightmare and down to more nerve-jangling build-ups alongside atmospheric break-downs. These qualities might not be as easy to spot if you’re not familiar with the band’s work. There’s something different nonetheless. Occasionally you get a bizarre and often un-nerving passage in which everything thins out and you’re left with drummer Brian Chippendale’s horribly primal howls, distorted and twisted beyond recognition while the surroundings build up slowly (see ‘Flooded Chamber’). It’s damn near terrifying. They even pass off something that sounds suspiciously like bloodthirsty bluegrass on ‘Funny Farm’, further showing their ability of weaving diverse ideas into the mix.

‘Earthly Delights’ may not be their best record, but it is their most diverse, which is why it sits here in the nominations. I’m not a metal fan at all, and yet Lightning Bolt have wormed their way into my collection – texturally they may carry the barbarous distorted riffs and miraculously speedy drumming so often found in speed metal, but there’s something altogether much less clichéd, more exciting, more musically rich and more dangerous about Lightning Bolt. You have been warned.

Key track: Colossus
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