In a decade stacked high full of brilliant surprises and endlessly confounding musical explorations, few records elicited as eye-popping a response as Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow. While the Providence, R.I. duo had released two albums prior, their third is still largely considered their best, and with good reason. With just bass and drums, not to mention more distortion than is considered safe or logical, Brian Gibson and Brian Chippendale had seemingly created an entirely new genre of music, one that blended punk, metal, free jazz and pure noise into a sound so brutal and bizarre that each listen seemed ready to blow the listener’s noggin, Scanners-style. That brain-bursting bass assault retained its menacing thrill on 2005’s Hypermagic Mountain. And after a four year hiatus, with members spent hanging out with the likes of Björk, Lightning Bolt have re-emerged as intense and furious as ever on their fifth album, Earthly Delights.
Lightning Bolt’s M.O. on Earthly Delights is essentially as the duo left it five years prior. Chippendale’s drums still burst and sputter with hyperactive abandon, while his vocals still closely resemble those of a Tourette’s afflicted maniac with a mumbling problem. Gibson, meanwhile, revs up his bass like a Husqvarna, ripping and slashing through anything in its path. It’s almost comforting to know that the band, after more than a decade, still plows through their material with the strength of a Mack truck and the subtlety of a dirty bomb.
The rippling echo of Gibson’s thunderous bass is just a mere drop before the oncoming flood of first track “Sound Guardians,” a manic explosion of noise rock that provides a fitting opening for Lightning Bolt’s newest 51-minute marathon of pummel. A more melodic riff opens up in “Nation of Boar,” a sinister exercise in abrasion that isn’t exactly catchy, but is nonetheless a bit more of an accessible form of the group’s raw, almost inhuman racket. Gibson turns off the fuzz temporarily in the trippy, spacious opening to “Colossus,” but this breather is short lived. The overdrive goes on, Chippendale starts pounding and a churning epic ensues. Chippendale’s squealing at the beginning of “Flooded Chamber” is disturbing, to say the least, and the song’s high pitched electronic shrieks only add to the strangeness. By contrast, “Funny Farm” alternates between stoner metal and hoedown, and “Rain On the Lake I’m Swimming On” is adrift in aqueous guitar and shrill vocal chirps.
Earthly Delights is something of an exercise in endurance for the listener, let alone the band members themselves. I can only imagine what kind of conditioning Brian Gibson and Brian Chippendale require to achieve peak preparedness to churn out their fuzz-splattering punk rock meteor storm. This album will most certainly test you as a listener, and if you pass, you’ll be rewarded with another chance at being tossed into their mercilessly awesome wringer.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.