Lightning Bolt

Oblivion Hunter

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Providence, Rhode Island noise duo Lightning Bolt built their reputation on Brian Gibson's muscular basslines, Brian Chippendale's nearly possessed drumming, and the happy horror show that happens when the two meet up. Lightning Bolt started up in the mid-'90s, but took their time with slowly developing their sound, evolving subtly over the course of five albums in a ten-year period between 1999 and 2009. Released in 2001, Ride the Skies was a buzzingly euphoric proclamation of noisy mania, while ensuing records reached into the influence of both hard rock swagger and harsh noise textures. Oblivion Hunter is a shorter statement from the band, culled mostly from loose, gritty jam sessions from 2008, tapes long shelved and forgotten until this release. There's a freedom to the playing that sets it apart from the more meticulously crafted confined chaos of Lightning Bolt's proper albums. Songs like the tom-tom battle cry of "King Candy" and the road-raging "Oblivion Balloon" sound like at least somewhat formed songs, with Gibson's proto-metal riffs propelled by Chippendale's pummelingly straightforward beats and delayed howling. The recording sounds decidedly tossed-off and raw, not unlike the band's earliest scuzzy lo-fi productions. Drumstick count-offs click the songs in and they all fizzle out into soupy endings marked by vocal chirps or bandmembers saying "We got it!" This is clearly not a pained-over studio affair, but there are moments when that works to the album's benefit. The candidness of Oblivion Hunter captures a lot of Lightning Bolt's spontaneity, which is one of the band's best attributes. Even still, the album's loose feel can wear thin before too long. The semi-acoustic one-minute doodle "The Soft Spoken Spectre" adds a piecemeal feeling to the album more than it offers a breather. The whole second half of the album sounds half-baked, with the 13-minute album closer "World Wobbly Wide" so jammy and monotonous it dissolves into self-indulgent instrument-bludgeoning before the two-minute mark. In their purest moments, Lightning Bolt are an ungovernable force, a noise machine so tight and shiny they seem like they were born locked into their own particular cacophonous nirvana. Oblivion Hunter is light on those moments of focus, and instead offers a look into the process that gets the band to that point. For enthusiasts or obsessive fans, this unpolished look in will be a treat, but for everyone else, the album is not without its highlights but little more than a glorified practice tape.

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