To say I was anxiously waiting for this album to be released would be putting it mildly and lightly. When Lightning Bolt create something new, I want to concentrate with all nine of my ears. There was a bit of a worry that Fantasy Empire would’ve sounded more polished, the songs would be more mainstream in how they were put together, and you would be able to hear drummer Brian “Black PUs” Chippendale sound in the same way Virgin Records made a cleaner mix of “American Woman” so you could hear a much more crisp Lenny Kravitz. Did it happen? Oh hell no.
He and bassist Brian Gibson remain as twisted and distorted as they’ve always been but as far as the construction of the compositions is concerned? Well, I’m not sure if other writers speak about Lightning Bolt and even bring up the word composition but what changed my view of their music was when Black Pus released his Primordial Pus album in 2011 and closed it with “I’ll Come When I Can”. I said it then and I’ll say it again, it’s the kind of song that I wish more people would cover so that the meaning of the song would be interpreted differently but still retain its definition. It made me listen to Lightning Bolt in a different light, for while it can be close to impossible to understand the lyrics without a lyric sheet, other times you can figure it out or read a song transcription elsewhere and go “I see, it may be twisted but there’s a lot more than that”. Gibson’s distorted bass can sound like a guitar and bass at the same time and other times you have no idea what kind of sounds he’s making. Is it a security signal or is it something he found at a pawn shop and decided to test it on the spot until it chokes? Yes, and more.
On the surface, just listening to Fantasy Empire and hear songs with a kind of spastic energy that will make you wan tto drive a car on a highway and jump out of the window. You may say that there’s a nice punk rock overtone or it’s just a ridiculous extension of 80’s metal. Imagine jamming in a basement and simply wanting to feel the space of electricity, but then knowing it’s a holiday weekend, you blast the amps until the police come over and playing loudly so that the officers will melt in front of your eyes. That’s Lightning Bolt in a sentence or two, and they are easily the best at what they do. “King Of My World” skips around with different tempo textures so that you are unable to dance in one way at any given time, but why should you? Are Lightning Bolt a dance band? Maybe, in a mixed-up world. Then again, we are in a mixed-up world, aren’t we? It’s wonderful to welcome yourself in the double Brian empire and get caught up in the beautiful ugliness they make. Sometimes it makes me wonder why more people have not become Lightning Bolt believers but hey, it’s more for me to enjoy.