BY JENNIFER KELLY
Brutal clarity sets off the fractured, splatter-paint drums, the sawed off buzzing riffs on this sixth Lightning Bolt album. Recorded at Pawtucket’s Machines with Magnets studio, this latest effort from the long-running noise rockers encases chaos with brilliant white space. Fantasy Empire is as viscerally overwhelming as any Lightning Bolt recording but this time, you can hear everything at once.
“The Metal East” electro-shocks itself to life with Brian Gibson’s bass, caterwauling a rapid repetitive riff, answered almost immediately by Brian Chippendale’s clattering rhythm. The vocals are muffled but anthemic, threading a strident sort of melody through pulverizing cadences. It feels like both Brians are playing as fast and hard as they can, near the break point, but nothing blurs. Even when the song fractures into a multiplicity of altered vocals, the drums are crisp and separated. The house is still on fire, but its architecture is precise and visible.
Fantasy Empire seems like the album where Lightning Bolt transcends the sweaty, which-way-is-up fracas of the club floor and begins to play to the back rows. “Myth Master,” with its house-rocking, syncopated beat, is as massive as anything the duo has ever played, every thwack slamming the place in the cortex that causes the body to move. “Runaway Train” posits a twisting, serpentine, classic metal riff then punches it to a bloody pulp with hurtling, humping drums. “Green Genie” is abrasive with static, and yet the bass line pops lucidly; the negative space around its sawed off riff turn it even more lacerating. There are a couple of songs where you can damned near make out the words.
Some long-time fans may object to Lightning Bolts new legibility, missing the communal chaos and staticky buzz that made listening to previous outings like opening a box of bees. But the maelstrom still looms, the intensity remains, it’s just a bigger, more focused sound.
DOWNLOAD: “The Metal East” “Myth Master”