Lightning Bolt: Fantasy Empire

Revered noisemongers finally return to classic mode

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Metallica have Master Of Puppets. Slayer have Reign In Blood. Every band, from the well-known behemoths down to the most subterranean of obscurities, has a classic in their discography that most fans believe can never be topped. For Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt, it’s 2001’s Ride The Skies.

The Brians’ – bassist Gibson and drummer/vocalist Chippendale – post-Ride… works, especially previous record Earthly Delights, had them treading water in their own pool. The dextrous, sizzling low end and furious pitter-patter was there, but as a whole, albums have lumbered in comparison, some more than others.

Six years later and their Fantasy Empire return sounds like the pair re-evaluating their approach while chugging on energy straight from the source. Gibson’s string-skipping dance and the fire-cracking muscularity of Chippendale’s drumming launches the stutter-stepping noise rock of The Metal East whereas Over The River And Through The Woods slyly weaves 70s prog movement into race-car riffs.

There’s some brief off-course meandering (Dream Genie), but the verve, focus, oddball angularity, fiery drumming and, maybe most importantly, the strength that emerges from the pair’s cohesive playfulness, is back and at its best since 2001./o:p