Lightning Bolt
Sonic Citadel


4.0
excellent

Review

by SandwichBubble USER (28 Reviews)
October 12th, 2019 | 176 replies


Release Date: 10/11/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A true wall of sound.

Even the most diehard Lightning Bolt fan will concede that their formula isn’t exactly the most complex. Not the music itself, mind you; just the formula. For the bulk of their career, the band has been Brian Chippendale on drums/vocals and Brian Gibson on bass. They play loud, noise rock with elements of math rock and prog. And they’ve played to that sound pretty consistently for the past 25 years.

All of this might sound like I’m discrediting their craft or implying that they’ve gotten stale, but nothing could be further from the truth. A band as instantly recognizable as Lightning Bolt has a certain ‘image’ to uphold. Sure, they’ve dabbled with new sounds with some degree of success (the cleaner sound of their last album, Fantasy Empire). But when you hear a Lightning Bolt track, you instantly know who’s playing. A lot of bands would kill for that kind of recognition and it’s a testament to how finely crafted that very simple formula has become over their long tenure.

The question then becomes this: how can we keep this momentum going? It’s a tall order for sure, considering how highly revered the band has become over the years. But all bands must strive for new heights to keep the audience satisfied. Could they even top their 2000s work? Will they stay true to their sound? Apparently the answers to both these questions is yes, and Sonic Citadel is proof. By finely sharpening their sound while simultaneously adding new spices to the mix, Chippendale and Gibson craft not only one of their best records to date, but one of the best noise rock albums of the year.

Clocking in at just over 50 minutes, Sonic Citadel is a return to their sound from albums like Ride the Skies and Wonderful Rainbow. Gone is the cleaner production of their last record and this album is all the better for it. That’s not to say it’s recorded lo-fi or anything, but it definitely has that characteristic grit to it that was dearly missed on that last album (by me anyway). Nothing makes this clearer than the pounding drums and wild yelping of “Blow To The Head,” the album’s opener. Just an all-out assault on all accounts, it states the album’s mission of noisy, adrenaline-pumping rock in crystal-clear terms. This sound permeates the album, from the hardcore-tinged “Air Conditioning” to the high-octane rhythm of “Tom Thump.” However, they delve into a few new sounds on this album on tracks like “Don Henley in the Park,” a no wave-influenced track that fits surprisingly well with their more standard noise rock sound. However, not all of these experiments yield as fruitful results. The album’s one misstep takes the form of Sonic Citadel’s penultimate track, “All Insane.” While it isn’t egregious, or even that bad, it does slow the album’s pace to a bit of a crawl.

That one track aside, Sonic Citadel is Lightning Bolt at their most consistent and most quality. It's fresh to the ears, while still maintaining the sound they've built up for the past two decades. Earlier I mentioned that bands must always look forward when creating new albums, always straddling the line between the experimental and comfortable. On Sonic Citadel, Lightning Bolt might have just hit the sweet spot. Only thing left to do is to see where they take us from here.



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user ratings (86)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Stream: https://lightningbolt.bandcamp.com/album/sonic-citadel



Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah buddy.

Digging: Dirt - Never Mind Dirt - Here's the Bollocks

DoofDoof
October 12th 2019


6310 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

When's the last time I told you I love you?

DoofDoof
October 12th 2019


6310 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I mean when “All Insane” is the closest to a duff track on your album you know you've released a peach.

SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I think that's first time anyone's ever said the word "love" to me.



Also a good indicator of quality: random 1.0 by some dude with NOFX 5.0'd.

DoofDoof
October 12th 2019


6310 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

'1.0 by some dude with NOFX 5.0'd' never change sputnikmusic!



I'd say USA is a Psycho might be my least fave but it's early days, that being the 2nd tune is maybe the only slight worry for me. Album is close to perfection of the style.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


17541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Whut. Sandwich 4 (+review!) and Doof 5?! Kinda dug some of Wonderful Rainbow but am clearly gonna have to give these guys another shot...



Pos pos pos

Digging: Hakushi Hasegawa - Air Ni Ni

SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

All Insane and USA is a Psycho are my least favorites, so you're definitely not alone there Doof.



And yeashssh, this is essential listening. And a good re-introduction to Lightning Bolt to boot.

Sharkattack
October 12th 2019


1236 Comments


Don’t think I’ve heard a lighting bolt album I haven’t liked. Great review I need to get on this.

SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"I need to get on this."

Yes you very well should.

As should everyone reading this.

Especially this guy: https://i.imgur.com/kixSIaM.png

I really wish we could link photos properly.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


17541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That opening sparks joy.

SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Hopefully those sparks last the remaining 50 minutes.

Am I bumping this too much? I feel like I am, I'll stop.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


17541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

No u silly keep bumping



Air Conditioning and Big Banger (so far) are dope

SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I'm campaigning for this album in this here comments section, gotta keep this hype train on-track. At least for one page.



Didn't say it in the review since it was getting pretty long-winded, but Van Halen 2049 is a damn good closer.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


17541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It'd better be, because, contrary to what you two stooges are claiming, All Insane is a huge banger and I don't want it to end

DoofDoof
October 12th 2019


6310 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I like 'All Insane' actually, it's in my top 7 on the album

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


17541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yay!!

This closer is a lot

SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Truly, I'm a stooge alone then.

Nyuk nyuk nyuk.



All Insane's a decent 3/5 for me.

DoofDoof
October 12th 2019


6310 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

the only song below 4 out of 5 currently on a 3.5 for me is USA, this is wall to wall quality

SandwichBubble
October 12th 2019


10513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yep, same here: USA Is a Psycho at a 3.5

God, RYM sucks but damn it all if the track ratings feature isn't super useful. I used to just write track-by-track ratings down in a notebook or a badly-formated word document back in the day.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


17541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Gets a high 3.5 for now. Would give it more for its craft, but I feel I need to grow into it a little first...



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