Album Reviews - Reviews

Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire


You need to be careful when choosing an album opener. The track needs to be the clearly defined mission statement of the album, but also needs to be what you’re willing to hang your hat on if all else fails. First impressions only come once. So it’s odd that, for their latest LP, Fantasy Empire, the noisy, experimental duo known as Lightning Bolt would choose to begin with something as standard as the album opener, ‘The Metal East’. The track is by no means bad. It’s loud and exciting with enough twists and jagged edges to poke your eyes out on. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Lightning Bolt: imagine Death From Above 1979 but more chaotic and cerebral. And, yet, there’s not much else to it. It feels more like a song that should be buried deeply on side two. The shame is that ‘The Metal East’ doesn’t give much indication as to how good the album is going to be, and it is really good.

As soon as final death throes of the opener are finished ringing out, the album steps it up several gears.  ‘Over The River and Through The Woods’ is a pulverisingly heavy and powerful track, as are tracks like ‘Mythmaker’ and ‘Runaway Train’; the former featuring some incredible musical u-turns which just knock you back, and the latter acting as a juggernaut stalking the landscape crushing everything in its path. The album closer, ‘Snow White (& The Seven Dwarves Fans)’ is a truly epic track, in a Homerian sense. It’s this odyssey of noise and disarray that presents a deeply rigid and tightly controlled sound as pure pandemonium. For the most part, all the songs on display here are just variations on a theme. While the variations are exciting and fascinating, it is the sort of sound that when faced with in abundance, becomes deeply annoying. There are only so many ways you can make a bass-drums combination sound fresh. The album does an admirable job of staving off this fatigue, but at points it does succumb.

But ultimately, Lightning Bolt continue on the same path that they’ve been following for most of the last two decades. Fortunately, their trick is still fresh and exciting and as long as the band are able to put out more releases as good as Fantasy Empire, then we’re all in for some serious treats. Will Murphy