Lightning Bolt - Oblivion Hunter
Okay, let's face it - Lightning Bolt are something of a noise rock institution. I remember being fifteen or sixteen years old and feeling quite snobbish about a music taste I considered 'eclectic'. (In reality I just liked a few guitar bands my mates hadn't heard of, and the heaviest two-piece band I knew was The White Stripes. Such is life). Then somebody played Lightning Bolt to me and my preconceptions about the sounds that instruments could make were blown right apart. ("Whaddya mean he's playing that on a bass?!?" Etc.)
My love affair with Lightning Bolt has been ongoing now for about seven years, and even when some criticised their more straight shooting approach on songs like 'Colossus' from 2009 LP Earthly Delights - a song I maintain is one of their best, I mean, just listen to it! – I stuck by 'em.
I'm sad to say, however, that Oblivion Hunter is quite disappointing.
Allegedly this is a collection of recordings that were made in 2008 – the interim period between Hypermagic Mountain and Earthly Delights - and subsequently lost/forgotten about/left to sit on a shelf until 2012, for some reason. It's essentially a snapshot of a band between albums, and captures the band at an almost regressive and primitive state. Perhaps after releasing Hypermagic Mountain, the closest thing to a Lightning Bolt 'pop' album that exists, they needed to exorcise some very horrifying demons, and thus the songs on Oblivion hunter are a concentration of that near-inaccessible catharsis.
At 7 songs and 38 minutes long, it meanders through very repetitive, muddy bass lines and tribal drums, accented with trademark vocals with so many effects on them that they sound inhuman. It all very quickly descends into walls of indescribable high end screeching. If anything it feels like a platform of experimentation for some of the more abrasive sounds that made it onto Earthly Delights. Songs like 'Baron Wasteland' use effects in a less refined way than the same sorts of sounds appearing on later tracks like 'Sound Guardians' and often the dynamically interesting moments in Oblivion Hunter are dragged out for a long time and lose their original appeal.
One of the best things about listening to Lightning Bolt for me is finding a twenty second section buried within a 5 minute track that blows you away and then listening to how rest of the song is built around it, so much so that you go back and listen again and again only for it to never get boring. Oblivion Hunter has these moments, but they make up full songs – namely 'Salamander' and 'Oblivion Balloon' and it all too quickly gets boring and becomes background noise.
This less of a record and more of a collection of practice room recordings and half thought out ideas that would make a good companion piece for a die-hard fan of the Lightning Bolt discography - as a standalone release it feels somewhat unnecessary. Especially when the official Lightning Bolt bandcamp gives away twenty-minute practice room recordings like 'I Found A Ring In My Ear' for free. The only thing that separates these two is time.