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Lightning Bolt Fantasy Empire Thrill Jockey


It’s nigh-on impossible to talk about Lightning Bolt without utilising metaphors steeped in machoism. And despite believing that no musical genre belongs to a certain gender, by Christ did I grow a pair of gigantic balls while listening to Fantasy Empire, the two Brians’ sixth album in their 20 year history, and first in half a decade.

The headline accompanying this release is the band’s decision to finally enter a studio. That’s right – Lightning Bolt have gone hi-fi. Well, Chippendale has still had the same kick drum for 20 years, so that’s relative. What the change in circumstance has heeded is a rather more galloping, heavy-metal aesthetic, as opposed to the mulchy, garage dissonance and degenerate trash of Ride the Skies or Wonderful Rainbow.

Chippendale’s unrelenting drum battery, the wincing clack of his snare, remains the band’s primary weapon. The closing onslaught of Over The River And Through The Woods meets the song’s central groove and tears it asunder, while King Of My World has a basso continuo born of hell. Horsepower and Runaway Train are gleefully relentless in a manner exceptional even for Lightning Bolt; both are the height of music as representations of the modern machine. It sounds like the band have consumed all current and past members of Kraftwerk then vomited them out onto an array of steampunk regalia.

This album is deadly in a way only Lightning Bolt could muster, and their new recording set-up has done nothing to quieten their fierce disregard of pleasantness. Perhaps turning up the clarity hasn’t quite led to a revolution in the Lightning Bolt sound, but it’s different enough to keep your blood at boiling point.