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Lightning Bolt

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The title of Lightning Bolt’s Ride the Skies might sound like a cagey tribute to Metallica, but the duo’s drums-and-bass brand of metal owes more to Japanoise gurus such as the Ruins and the Boredoms than to “Creeping Death.” Employing a bass rig rumored to weigh in at a punishing 3,200 watts, Providence, R.I.’s, Lightning Bolt clearly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you or your hearing. And the band’s dense, angular songs prove it. With few concessions to mainstream rock orthodoxy, drummer Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson seem to make music just for themselves. The largely instrumental Ride the Skies greets the listener with a stream of unearthly distorted bass hammer-ons—sounding more like a malfunctioning analog synthesizer than a four-string—before exploding into “Forcefield”‘s melody-free stop-start hard-rock bombast. Track 2, “Saint Jacques,” introduces a quasi-classical theme between its thick blasts of bass chordage, but the disc doesn’t get truly hooky until its third offering. Contrasting drum-driven chants with high-velocity prog-rock riffing, the catchy but damaged-sounding “13 Monsters” could be a high school fight song—if, say, Travis Bickle were the football coach. With “Ride the Sky,” Chippendale and Gibson up the ante, offering circular Motor City-meets-Canterbury riffs and impossibly fast breakbeats that sound as if they’re being played by an octet—or, at the very least, a quartet. The minimalist “The Faire Folk”—the disc’s one respite from eardrum bleed—continues in the same mathematically complex vein, but from there on out, Ride the Skies is more of a rhythm ‘n’ noise affair, with a trio of pure No Wave jams closing up shop. Although these second-half freakouts aren’t nearly as satisfying as the album’s more tightly structured tracks, this center-loaded piece of plastic is nonetheless a pretty beautiful thing. Lightning Bolt’s extremist approach to rock ‘n’ roll is in precious short supply these days, and when the band is on, it sounds like no one else. —Brent Burton