Lightning Bolt- Hypermagic Mountain

Lightning Bolt is epic. Upon their discovery, I crapped my pants. No use of clever written language could explain this better than my lackluster and blunt statement. I crapped my pants for god sake.

Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island this band helped define the noise scene in RISD. Not that I know much about that scene in the first place, but it all made perfect sense to me upon listening. I don't think I've heard music this cohesively brutal, experimental, loud and tasteful before, but even if I had it doesn't lessen the immense ownage of Lightning Bolt. The sounds presented are all extremely organic and doesn't sound like a pile of crappy Steve Vai-saturated scales played over a shitty drum machine. However, there is a huge dosage of technicality displayed. It doesn't sound sloppy, but I think it probably takes alot of effort in order to make sense of Gibson's octave-bending bass playing and Chippendale's obscenely fast and loud drumming; drumming that sounds like... really fast blast beats, ride crashes and sickening snare rolls that sound nothing like The Locust or Hella. Hell yes.

So what does the album actually sound like? It sounds like a shit-load of noise and two guys spontaneously combusting for 41.8 minutes without a pause. What does that mean?

It's over 9000!!!

  1. "2 Morro Morro Land" – 3:43
  2. "Captain Caveman" – 3:19
  3. "Birdy" – 3:06
  4. "Riffwraiths" – 3:03
  5. "Megaghost" – 6:01
  6. "Magic Mountain" – 4:55
  7. "Dead Cowboy" – 7:58
  8. "Bizarro Zarro Land" – 4:47
  9. "Mohawkwindmill" – 9:38
  10. "Bizarro Bike" – 5:18
  11. "Infinity Farm" – 2:46
  12. "No Rest for the Obsessed" – 2:10


The Importance of Being Metal: Black Sabbath-Volume 4

1972; Vertigo; Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, California

1. Is it any good?

Not as well known as Paranoid, not as heavy as Master of Reality, not as musically complex as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and not as crushingly dark as the self-titled debut, Volume 4 can only be referred to simply as "a Black Sabbath album". In many ways, this is probably it's best quality.

4 is the most dense of the original lineup's records next to Master of Reality. It's tempting to refer to this album as being "no frills", as nonsensical as that might sound-with the exception of the odd little piano ballad "Changes" and the filler piece "Laguna Sunrise", this is all pretty standard nose to the grindstone style heavy rock. This isn't an insult, mind you-Sabbath's workmanlike approach to song crafting has created some of the greatest songs of all time, heavy metal or no, and this album is by and large no exception. Volume 4 takes the bowel-rumbling heaviness of Reality, picks up the tempo a little bit and expands it. Ozzy's voice isn't quite like it is on any other album, either-it always had a somewhat ghostlike quality to it during the '70s(which reminds me-doesn't he look like such a fucking goblin on the album artwork? Jesus Christ!), but here it's more confrontational than it's ever been. Black Sabbath's lyrics have a theme of being somewhat above the listener; they're astral spirits, telling you that things are sure to go wrong if humanity doesn't change it's sinful ways. For Volume 4, every one of them is right down in the dirt with us-"Snowblind" is about cocaine addiction and, although it's never explicitly stated, one glance at the lyrics to "Supernaut" makes it fairly obvious that it's being sung from the perspective of someone who's high on LSD(Ozzy Osbourne, in other words). The band does drift away from the "war, violence and hate" themes from previous albums, and by the time Sabbath Bloody Sabbath rolled around these ideas would be almost completely absent from the band's music.

As I stated earlier, this is one of the only Black Sabbath works where nothing really stands out about the album as a whole. You'll get a few classics in the form of "Tomorrow's Dream", "Snowblind", "Supernaut" and "Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener", but as a whole the album coalesces into an incredibly solid but ultimately somewhat forgettable effort. That said, it's still absolutely worth listening to, as even a middling Black Sabbath album kicks the shit out of about 90% of other metal bands on a good day.

2. Is it "influential"?

long with Master of Reality, Volume 4 helped pioneer what's come to be known as "stoner metal", which is a term that I hope explains itself. Plus, Frank Zappa referred to "Supernaut" as the greatest rock and roll song of all time. I'm not sure that anything anywhere has ever received higher praise than that.

3. Is it a good entry point for beginners?

Pretty much every Black Sabbath album is a good entry point for beginners, and this is probably as good a place to start as any, maybe even an exceptional place to begin: If the listener enjoys the style of this album overall, it'll probably be easier to introduce them to other Black Sabbath albums and even get them started on doom metal. Plus, once again-"Supernaut". I can't imagine any listener with a heavy bone in their body, first time or no, not absolutely falling in love with that song.

Are you calling Frank Zappa a liar?



The National - Boxer

2007; Beggers Banquit (now 4AD); Brooklyn, NY

Its been said that The National sounds like a garage band turned down. I get that. A wall of dark distorted guitars, shoegaze landscapes, hard dirty tones linger right behind your eye, caught sometimes in the peripherals. But most people don't notice it. Above that lies the old melodies, the winding sweeping piano, a drum line walking strange steps to go in circles. Matt Berninger's voice is low and calm and comforting and unsettling and he sings very circular songs. Lines that don't mean anything at all repeated twice, three times. "undermine everything, I'm a professional, in my beloved white coat/undermine everything, I'm a professional, in my beloved white coat." And its all simmering there and you're waiting for it to be released, its restrained but the binds are not tight, its a scream caught in your throat after the fireworks of the other night. And it starts to seem that yes they do in fact have all the energy all the passion of a garage band even with the volume knob turned counter clockwise a bit.

Through all this everyone of these songs feel classic. And though its difficult to pinpoint any influences, anyone they sound at all like it these songs feel like they've always existed. Like they were the soundtrack to Casablanca.

For a year and something Boxer has been passed around to my friends when they ask for an introduction to contemporary underground music or the cough cough indie scene. There are more immediately interesting or exciting bands out there, but The National in their corner of the soundscape, are the best.

1. Fake Empire
2. Mistaken for Strangers
3. Brainy
4. Squalor Victoria
5. Green Gloves
6. Slow Show
7. Apartment Story
8. Start a War
9. Guest Room
10. Racing Like a Pro
11. Ada
12. Gospel

its hard to keep track of you falling from the sky