Much has gone down since Rhode Island noise duo Lightning Bolt released its last album, 2005’s Hypermagic Mountain. Baltimore and L.A. have supplanted Providence as America’s avant-rock capitals. The indie world has grown softer and safer. And Lightning Bolt itself has mostly been silent. Into this void, drummer-vocalist Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson have plunked Earthly Delights—and it’s as much a panic button as a reset button for the band. Delights is a spasm of psychedelic anxiety full of mutant-metal riffs and intricate drumming that’s heavier on fuzz and lighter on fidelity than its predecessor—and as always, Chippendale’s distorted vocals sound like the death rattle of an avalanche victim. Amid the barrage are the hoedown-slash-breakdown of “Funny Farm”—in which Gibson makes his bass sound like a mouth-harp as played by Cthulhu—and the placid static of the spacious “Rain On The Lake I’m Swimming In.” In typically contrarian fashion, Lightning Bolt closes the disc with the 12-minute “Transmissionary,” an epic that actually tightens up rather than falling apart as it spirals toward its earthmoving climax. Lightning Bolt exists in a wholly different context than it did four years ago, but Earthly Delights ranks up there with the group’s best work. It’s like the sound of God dragging His fingernails across the chalkboard of the cosmos.
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