Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire (2015)

There has gone some time now since the release of Rock Band 4, and out of the entire on disc set list, there is one song that has caught my attention for several crazy reasons. Lightning Bolt's "Dream Genie" is one of two songs that has a devil tier rating on all of the instruments, mixing incomprehensible vocals with spastic guitars and bass. And the drum section? This song has the absolute hardest drum chart I have ever seen in a Rock Band set list (not including DLC), with a fast bass pedal pattern that goes on for 7 straight minutes, with no breaks in between. And to top it off, we have some quick fills scattered throughout the song, just so your arms gets a workout as well. Just take a look at it for yourself and judge just how insane it really is.

This certainly got me interested in the band, and how they sounded in a full album, but before I dove myself into that, I did some research on the band just to understand them and their music more. Lightning Bolt was formed by Brian Gibson (bass), Brian Chippendale (drums) and Hisham Akira Bharoocha (vocals), with the latter one leaving the group 2 years later, leaving Chippendale with the vocal duties. The duo performs a genre called Noise, which is a pretty self explanatory name. It is not a genre I am too familiar with, and after listening to "Fantasy Empire", I do not think I will dive deeper into it.

Because noise is exactly what you would expect it to be, pure noise. I can admit that there is some melody to it and some structure, but man, it is often so insane that you would think the guys just recorded them self smashing a hotel room using their equipment as hammers. The production is far from clean, which I actually think is intended, just so the overall mood of the record is right for the band. While it does work, I still find it odd that the vocals are so muddled out that you barely can hear it, even less extinguish the words.

Even though this genre is one of the weirder ones I have encountered, there is one thing I do admire, and that is the groove. Damn, some of these tracks are so groovy that some people would think I have parkinson by looking at my twitching feet. Most of this groove is created by Brian Gibson and his bass. He has sort of a spastic, frenetic style that tingles your nerves in a pleasing way. Add the insane drumming style of Chippendale, and you get some groovy insanity in songs like "The Metal East", "Over The River And Through the Woods", and my personal favourite, the RB4 song "Dream Genie". It goes without saying that I understand why this song made it into the set list.

Despite some really groovy tunes, I am having a hard time appreciating the album. The middle part of the album is cluttered with songs that are hard to identify, songs that has no memorability factor to them at all. And even if there is some guitar in the album, it is heavily under used, probably because there is no official guitar player in the band. Not saying that you cannot enjoy a song that does not include a guitar, but the guitar is better than the bass to focus around.

With all this said, the duo does seem to have a lot of energy and passion to put on a good show. I watched some of their live performances on youtube, often performing close with the audience, in a sort of guerilla type environment, creating tons of insane energy. I would certainly visit one of their shows for this reason alone, because the music sounds like complete chaos to me, so it would be all about the experience.

After getting a clear picture over Lightning Bolt, I would probably put them under a folder I would like to call "bands I would like to see live, but not follow thoroughly". I can see why some people would enjoy this type of music, however it is a little too chaotic for my own taste. With that said, I still find "Fantasy Empire" to be a interesting album with some good highlights that I will put in my main set list on Spotify. As a whole, "Fantasy Empire" is a decent album for the ones that likes to be crazy once every now and then, and for the ones that likes to get their feet destroyed by mimicking Chippendale's drumming.

Songs worthy of recognition: Dream Genie, The Metal East, Over The River And Through The Woods

Rating: 6/10 Mythmasters

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