In today’s music scene, there are very few bands who manage to set up, with a single movement, a piece of work which embodies systematic destruction and sublime construction at the same time. Lightning Bolt are one of those acts that, most of all, have the ability to tear down ideological walls and genre prejudices, creating excruciating and visceral sounds showing quite diverse influences. This duo, consisting of Brian Gibson and Brian Chippendale, finally gave us Sonic Citadel, the last piece of a chain which, since the first links, showed a very deep artistic research, plumbing into free jazz frenzy as well as aboriginal tribal rhythms.
If we wanted to explain in short what Lightning Bolt‘s style is, we can try to forcefully cage them into a triangular scheme, with experimental free jazz, noise rock heaviness and a math rock fascination for odd tempos and almost irrational rhythms. Outside of this restricted, but potentially endless area, after five years of waiting came out Sonic Citadel, which in my opinion goes straight to the top 3 albums of this year. What’s most surprising, something that makes this album the most easy listening of the band’s discography, is the pop nature that permeates many songs. Please, don’t get me wrong when I say pop: the only thing I’m referring to is the natural listenability of a particular song, as opposed to the often hard to digest results of experimentation. Pieces such as “USA Is A Psycho”, “Husker Don’t” (which is already a win thanks to the title alone) and “Halloween 3” have rhythm structures, riffs and choruses that are easy to sing under the shower, infiltrating the listeners’ minds with arrogance.
Lightning Bolt, though, are not entirely new to this feature; their clownish vein and their love for everything colourful and enjoyable have always been there, but in their previous works they were partially hidden under many, many layers of distortion, speed and chaos, hence hardly recognizable. Sonic Citadel shows an efficient erosion that allows this more accessible side to emerge, without denying their attachment to chaos: among the many catchy episodes, delirious undetonated devices are buried, ready to explode at the first chance (the closing piece “Van Halen 2049” is the perfect example). Everything that’s inside these eleven gems just confirms once again the uniqueness of this duo, one of the very last outposts set to defend an artistic, colourful citadel, hanging among the clouds, unconquerable, but frenzied and heart-wrenching nonetheless.