Recently, Providence, RI noise rock band Lighting Bolt announced their newest album, Sonic Citadel, set to release October 11, 2019. Last week they dropped a single, titled, Air Conditioning, from their forthcoming album. In anticipation I’ve decided to do a classic review of their 2003 album, Wonderful Rainbow.
Though I’m still quite new to Lightning Bolt and I have yet to listen to their entire discography, I am a huge fan of noise rock and math rock. The band overall reminds me of a noisier version of Hella, the Sacramento, CA based math rock group consisting of current Death Grips drummer, Zach Hill.
With this being said, Wonderful Rainbow is one of the most mesmerizing, colorful, yet abrasive albums I’ve ever heard. One of the beautiful things about this LP, contrary to a lot of other noise rock albums, is that the overall sound never feels stagnant or tiring. Even though each song has a constant repetition of riffs from bassist Brian Gibson, your attention is encapsulated during the entire five to six minutes of the average track. In addition, the pounding percussion of drummer Brian Chippendale helps make the song composition not feel static.
Other noise rock groups I’ve been listening to recently (primarily the Canadian group METZ) have this flaw of painting themselves into a corner by creating a sound that stays the same throughout the album. By no means does this indicate I therefore dislike an album, but it does create an issue when you aren’t able to differentiate songs because they all sound so similar.
The first leg of Wonderful Rainbow has some of the most memorable tracks that I’ve heard from any of Lightning Bolt’s full length albums. We have Assassins, Dracula Mountain, 2 Towers, On Fire, and Crown of Storms. The distorted bass riffs from all of these tracks somehow coherently combine minimal and entrancing with off-the-wall and all over.
Unfortunately, the last third of the album begins to stagnate and slow down to a fault. Longstockings and Wonderful Rainbow are two of the slowest tracks on the album and are placed one after another, causing a lull in pace. Though I find these songs not as memorable as the first two-thirds of the album, they are short enough to help transition the LP along. The good thing about Wonderful Rainbow is that it is used exceptionally well as a palate cleanser before the most abrasive song on the album, 30,000 Monkies.
Just as the name suggests, the song sounds like 30,000 monkeys going bananas on percussion and bass (see what I did there). Sadly, I found this song too chaotic and with no real structure. There is so much going on within the song that you aren't able to process any memorable instrumentation. Duel in the Deep is a six minute track that finishes the album in slow, hypnotic fashion via an off-kilter droning noise. My issue with this track in particular is that it doesn't truly do the album justice as a closer. With such a fantastic first two-thirds, ending the album on a slower note makes the listener feel unsatisfied.
Though lyrically there isn’t much depth to this album due to it being almost all instrumentals, the grimy and distorted production is what sells this album. Similarly to Zach Hill and his solo work, the contorted vocals of Lightning Bolt are just the icing on the cake in combination with the instrumental production. For two guys that only play drum and bass, Lightning Bolt is able to create an album rich with depth, dissonance, and plenty of energy.
Favorite Tracks: Assassins, Dracula Mountain, 2 Towers, On Fire, Crown of Storms, Longstockings, Wonderful Rainbow, Duel in the Deep