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Saturday, October 25, 2014 
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Lightning Bolt
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Hypermagic Mountain
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Listening to Hypermagic Mountain is like picking up the live end of a downed power line. The noise-worshiping duo Lightning Bolt churn out fast, ultra-rhythmed, ultra-riff-based dirges that come from metal and lurch towards punk. Their music is pure visceral sensation, the punch to the gut, the shuddering shock, the smell of burning hair and flesh. The liner notes instruct that "This record is mastered for metal loudness!!!" — and indeed, if you play Hypermagic Mountain at lullaby volume, it is still a maelstorm. At higher volumes, it becomes a physical thing with physical consequences — a faster pulse, a surge of adrenaline, and the fiercest kind of joy — so pummeling that it transcends itself and frees you from your bodily cage.

This is the fourth full-length from Rhode Island's Lightning Bolt, the third since Ride the Skies established them as the loudest bass-and-drums duo who ever destroyed a club (before that, Hisham Bharoccha, now of Black Dice, was a third member). Dave Auchenbach again produces, recording live to two-track to achieve the best possible approximation of the band's room-melting live sound.

The album opens with a distorted roar, bass player Brian Gibson coaxing a very guitar-like howl out of his instrument at the onset of "2 Morro Morro Land." He settles on a ricocheting riff, played all up and down the scales, backed by the rapid-fire, all-over-the-set drumming of partner Brian Chippendale, who also sings "Welcome to tomorrow" over the fractious cacophony. This track leads to the lurchingly heavy metal riff of "Caveman," shrapnel flying from the buzzing intersection of low riff and frantic drums. There's a song eddying here, just about to be sucked into a downward-spiraling vortex of metallic riffery, and you can almost sing along with Chippendale as he barks out lyrics including "This is an anthem." That sense of buried, distorted, just-out-of-focus but recognizable melody hovers over "Birdy" too, with squawkbox vocals slapped up against juddering, pace-pushed instrumentals and sounding a bit like Parts & Labor's hard-melodic punk. Then, with the unrelenting onslaught of "Riffraith," you start to wonder if you'd imagined the whole melodic thing, as if it were the kind of buzz you'd hear in your ears when you'd stopped hearing everything else.

There are some playful, leavening elements to Hypermagic Mountain. The spectral cries that kick off "Megaghost," the "That's not it" interspersed between drum fills in "Riffraith", the speed-metal tempo'd hoedown riff that embellishes "Dead Cowboy" and the Eddie Van Halen solo in "Bizarro Zarro Land" (how does Gibson do this on a bass?) all seem to be having fun with a kind of music that's often deadly serious. There's a bit of political commentary, too, in "Dead Cowboy," as Chippendale proposes sending Bush to Afghanistan and cooking him in an oil pit, though you can't make out the words without the cheat sheet.

Yet mostly, this album speaks to your physical, nonverbal, non-analytical side, punching hard through your assumptions and excuses and lodging in those primal parts of your brain where nothing but sensation can penetrate.


by Jennifer Kelly




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