Ride The Skies
By: Eric Greenwood
Rumored to be one of the loudest and most frenzied live acts on the touring circuit, Lightning Bolt offers this recorded document of its spasmodic, deafening thrashcore, hoping to convey just as much jaw-dropping awe as its live show purportedly does. The Providence, Rhode Island duo consists only of bass and drums, but a Godhead Silo tribute Ride The Skies is not (no boring sludge-core here). Lightning Bolt explodes from the same fiery hole as Japanese counterparts like Melt Banana and –to an extent– the Boredoms. Each song is a lesson in speed, control, and dynamics.
This type of music will only appeal to those with an affinity for bombastic rhythms and overly complicated arrangements. Anyone looking for hooks will be sorely disappointed. What sounds like utter noise at first soon reveals itself to be so tightly wound and precisely syncopated that it boggles the mind. Drummer Brian Chippendale mimics every cragged twist and turn of Brian Gibson’s squealing bass. Gibson’s effects pedal plays an important role, transforming his bass into a versatile instrument capable of the highest-pitched squawks to the deepest rumblings.
From the first seemingly random notes of “Forcefield” it is obvious that this is not your typical thrash. The controlled chaos is too pristine- too calculated. Chippendale’s drumming is monstrous. He relentlessly pummels every single note like his life depends on it. Gibson sounds like he’s trying to shake Chippendale off his tail with a spattering of notes so disparate that to the casual ear it must sound like five different records all playing at 78 rotations per minute, but Chippendale never misses a beat. "St. Jacques" sounds like a jackhammer with sudden, unpredictable stops and starts while Gibson teases you with high-end bass snippets of the traditional "Frere Jacques" played so fast it's almost unrecognizable.
Transferring this type of energy and intensity to something as impersonal and stale as a digital recording must be a let down for the band and its fans, but Ride The Skies has its shining moments. "13 Monsters" has a semblance of a groove, led by a gnarly, fuzzed-out bass line. Random shrieks and screams are audible beneath the pounding rhythms, so, technically, you can't call Lightning Bolt an "instrumental" band. One could almost hum along with the music of the title track (the vocals, however, are a different story). Have you ever listened to a cassette while it's being dubbed on high speed? That's what Lightning Bolt sounds like when it's locked in a groove. It doesn't last long, of course, as some sort of noisy deconstruction invariably sets in ("The Faire Folk").
Lightning Bolt wows you with its musical prowess without the ego and pomposity of bands like Don Caballero (or, heaven forbid, the outrageously pretentious Don Caballero sideshow, Storm And Stress). This isn't art so much as deconstruction of art or, more accurately, destruction of art- an aural fight against complacency. You can't dance to it, you can't really sing along, and you won't remember how the songs went once it's over, but I guarantee it will still rock you inside out.