Editor's Note: For the last nine years, Splendid's reviews have been edited pretty aggressively -- for grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, accuracy, coherence and thoroughness of argument, and even adherence to "house" style. There are two reasons for this. First of all, I've always believed that for online magazines to succeed, they must offer the highest quality content possible. Second, how can you trust a publication to recommend music if its writers can't tell the difference between there, their and they're? That said, editing is extremely time consuming, and on many occasions over the last nine years, I've wondered what would happen if I took a week off and let the reviews go through completely untouched. Long story short: this week, from December 5th through December 10th, is that week, and the review you're about to read is untouched by editorial hands. Will this new (and very temporary) hands-off policy make a difference? Will you even notice? We'll see...
Lightning Bolt is a mean band. They are horribly mean to their instruments for starters. Using only a defenseless drum kit and a bass rig, they repeatedly beat the shit out their gear for 57 minutes without a moment's respite. It goes without saying that an instrumental, improvisational punk/metal band requires a certain amount of brutality in their musical technique, but their should be limits. Give a listen to the very brief breakdown halfway through "Megaghost." Right when the bass drops out with a unearthly yelp and drummer Brian Chippendale continues to thwack the drums with what sounds like tree branches, you can barely make out the drum heads whisper "Tell my mom I love her." Then, like some overly dedicated electric chair switch operator who keeps sending voltage well after the job is done, the beating continues full force. Not nice.
They're pretty mean to their audience, too. Each song is like a construction worker's fist planted square against your jaw. Plenty of two piece bands go over the top sonically to overcompensate for their lack of members (Death From Above 1979 comes to mind), but even these bands most dedicated to producing sonic TNT throw one or two departure songs into their albums for a quick breather before the next beating. Well, there are no breathers in Hypermagic Mountain. There are only a series of knuckle sandwiches in the form of throbbing, distorting, gesticulating low-end ear bleeders. A couple of the tunes, most notably "Birdy", will tease you with the promise of vocals. Yes, they're in there, but they're only bait, buried deep in the mix underneath a hurricane of cymbals and colon-cleansing bass rumblings; searching for them will most certainly result in a wave of filthy noise crashing down on you and ruining your evening.
Your stereo system will not have nice things to say about Lightning Bolt, either. There are a couple of moments during "Mohawk Windmill" when the amount of noise coming from your speaker will make you feel like you need to turn down the volume. This is foolhardy, however, because Hypermagic Mountain will actually turn itself back up; don't even bother. Your speakers are fucked.
But like any great bully, there is much to be admired while receiving Hypermagic Mountain's thorough beating. For one, how did they find the space or the resources to produce so many melodies during what seems like such a visceral act? "Dead Cowboy," while still administering as sure a whooping as the rest of the gang, squeezes a country/western motif out of the drum and bass explosions. Which instrument is producing the melody is a mystery, but there it is staring at you in those precious moments between the swing and the hit.
So thanks, Lightning Bolt. Thanks for making us deaf. Thanks for having the energy and the focus to clobber us for the better part of an hour. Next time, however, you might want to take us to dinner and buy us a few drinks before fucking us.