Lightning Bolt - s/t (Load Records 2001, 026)

From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)

Recently-welcomed AI-writer Rashad saw this post-punk indie-noise mayhemic rock duo from Rhode Island do their thing in L.A. about a year ago with Pink and Brown. When he played back his concert recordings for me, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The power was like nothing I'd ever heard before. The recordings which make up this album are from live '97/'98 gigs. Brian Gibson plays the "bass", but it may as well be guitar. Brian Chippendale plays drums, and, well... his performance on opening tune "Into the Valley" accomplishes things that shouldn't be possible. So manic, and yet so tight, there's a definite "beat", but a no-groove attack composed entirely of fills, 100 mph for 10 minutes. Impossible avant-progressive hardcore on crack?!

This segues into a few minutes of the great "Murk Hike", a slow plodding stomp where the duo switches from speed to heroine. But then "Caught Deep In The Zone" is several minutes of obnoxious low-fi screaming feedback-core with frivolous shouts from "Singer" on the beat, the only low point of the "album proper".

The best thing on the disc is the adrenaline-laced "Fleeing The Valley Of Whirling Knives", another 10-minute blitz. A slow scuzzy qualude-duo sludge-groove builds into this part where "Singer" spews forth these great freaked shouts, with just the correct amount of restraint. Finally we've reached nirvana when Brian G starts cranking out these basic epic sky-riding riffs, a less manic version of what he does all thoughout "Valley", but equally as powerful. Then you have these breaks where the drums cut out, allowing the grindcore bass to chug solo, then return to lay down bass-and-cymbal stomps to the summits of the riff, the sort of thing that would make fans of Slayer, Kreator and any old-style thrash fans bang their heads against the stage 'till it bleeds. "Singer" totally loses control at this point, just wailing as if he's fighting a bad-trip, like the same manic freaked-out intensity you get at the end of Hawkwind's "You Shouldn't Do That" (the live version from the Space Ritual show). And yet still so tight, this is an absolute mind-blower. I can't imagine myself ever getting burnt on this tune, but if I ever do, there's nothing left to live for.

Closing the "album proper" is "Mistake", some industrial-type noise which hits a pretty sick groove. Quite a rush if you can handle the brutal slouching noisiness. I love it, but they might have shaved off some of the static, as this will be borderline for many listeners... then it'd be a great partner to Tone Float's "Genghis Khan Android", which is similar but clearer.

I mentioned the "album proper". That was it. The 12 inch was obviously a gas, if you were weird enough to own a copy. But as this is a CD reissue, they of course had to give you 80 minutes. Seems that some 7" stuff might have been the better choice, as what fills up most of the rest of the CD (more than half of the total time of the entire disc!) doesn't quite make it. Espcially "Zone", which is an obnoxious 30-minute-plus avant-noise/feedback experiment which goes nowhere (slow), but it's basically a huge racket, unless you just happen to like absolute sonic chaos. There are some rhythmic bits but they're way too amateurish to take seriously, ala "Caught Deep In The Zone". The gigs may have been a better experience considering the visual aspect of the group (and the crowd??), but it doesn't work on record, far too anti-music.

Bonus track #2 "And Beyond" is better. Like "Zone", the recording is more like an audience tape than soundboard, and the first segment is pretty over-the-top, but towards the end gets closer to their patented sky-powered relentless smiling noise-jam, as in the above-worshiped "Knives".

The retail price is still well worth the purchase for the original LP part (the "Yellow Album"??), so this is still a basically thumbs-up review. These guys' special zone has already started to spread (inspiring the awesome Pink and Brown), and I can't wait to hear more. Their latest album is "Ride the Skies" (Load, 2001) and hopefully AI will get caught up with that by its next couple of issues.

For more information you can visit the Load Records web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Load Records; PO Box 35; Providence, RI 02901.

Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg

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