Track Review: “The Metal East,” Lightning Bolt


It’s hard to believe, but Lightning Bolt has already been a band for over 20 years. I featured the noisy duo from Providence, RI as a part of my Current Rotation a couple of weeks ago so suffice it to say, I was pretty excited when Lightning Bolt announced their upcoming record, Fantasy Empire, a 2xLP that will be put out by the Thrill Jockey record label. Fantasy Empire will be the group’s first record in six years and “The Metal East,” the album opener, was just put out as the first single. So, was it worth the wait?

Put simply, it’s immediately clear that Lightning Bolt’s overall sound hasn’t changed much in style, but it has expanded. The distorted intro riff from bassist Brian Gibson instantly draws you in; once Brian Chippendale’s drums come crashing in with Gibson’s huge and rapid bass riffs, it’s easy to picture the band’s well-known chaotic live shows, surrounded by raucous crowd members.

However, as Chippendale said in their interview with Rolling Stone, “we’re not just an antics band. We’re not a kick drum, blast-beats, wall-of-bass, noise band.” This provides a glimpse into why it might have taken the band so long to complete this record. Lightning Bolt is a much larger band now than they were in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Additionally, they have become better musicians, honing their craft and upping their expectations for what they can create in the process.

What makes “The Metal East” shine is the precision of its chaos. The authenticity and intensity for which Lightning Bolt are known is the song’s focus, yet their songwriting expertise comes through as well. The last minute of the track especially has some of the most memorable moments, like when Gibson lets a bass chord sustain over Chippendale’s impressive drumming before going back into another powerful riff to end the song.

“The Metal East” is an infectious track that holds your attention throughout the entire four minutes. It is an excellent sample of Lightning Bolt’s new material, sure to mystify and excite both new and old fans of the band. If the rest of Fantasy Empire is at this level, then we’re in for a treat.

Catch Lightning Bolt during their full U.S. tour from April 15th-May 16th. Fantasy Empire is set to be released on March 24th.

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