Some shows, I'm seriously surprised when I exit Neumos after the set's over and am not witnessing irreparable damage running up and down the walls. Tuesday night, label-mates Liturgy and Lightning Bolt played one of those types of sets. When there's one guy in the front row that doesn't have earplugs and three people around him dig through their pockets to combine enough quarters to get him a pair from the bar, when the conversations on either side of you drop so many genre monickers that it sounds like a double bonus Jeopardy category... and this time, I'm not sure if anyone left Neumos untouched by the scorching fury happening on stage. It was too brutal and entirely too awesome to be casually witnessed. Liturgy and Lightning Bolt are each masters of chaos in their own rites, but other than the sheer volume of the amplifiers and the love of distortion, there's little to work with in terms of similarities. But this fact in and of itself made tonight's Thrill Jockey showcase one for the books. Liturgy and Lightning Bolt both put their heart and soul into their sets tonight, showing off brand new records that are both among the best material of each band's career, and proving their infinite worth as live titans. I just feel bad for anyone who wasn't ready to have their face melted completely off.
With their new album The Ark Work, Liturgy took their metal roots and decided to grow quite horizontally. The Ark Work is part metal, part industrial, part electronic, part hip-hop, part prog-rock, part classical, and fully and entirely a beast not to be trifled with. Hunter Hunt-Hendrix took his production to the next level in stringing the record together, using heavy sampling techniques and electronic textures to make the sound Liturgy dialed in on its first two records even heavier and more emotionally impactful. All that being said, the record doesn't exactly lend itself to a direct shift to the live setting like some of their older material might. But did that stop Liturgy from playing almost the entirety of their set from the most complex arrangements on The Ark Work? Hell no.
While lead guitarist Bernard Gann handled nearly all of the heavy tremolo guitar we hear throughout the record, Hunter hooked his axe up to his laptop and threw a ton of digital effects through it to play not only his own guitar lines, but most of the other sampled instruments through his guitar, like the strings, the bagpipes, and the glockenspiel (I'm not joking). Tyler Dusenbury blasted wave after wave of tremolo bass guitar at the crowd until they shook - that guy must have the forearms of a Greek god. Then finally, the god amongst mortals of a drummer Greg Fox had every jaw in the room on the floor for the syncopated chaos of tracks like "Kel Valhaal" and Aesthethica burner "Generation". Of course, there was plenty of time for Hunter and Bernard to show off too. The more doom-heavy blaze of "Veins of God" was a third-quarter riot before the band kicked into The Ark Work climax cut "Reign Away". All across the board, Liturgy played a near flawless set, wowing the crowd to a silence on more than one occasion.
It probably goes without saying, but as soon as the sound guy gave the go ahead and Brian Chippendale went in on a drum intro to "The Metal East", Neumos literally exploded. Lighting Bolt kind of designs it that way. Their gear is destroyed, covered in scribbles and painted on faces. Chippendale's drum set is laid out on the most disgusting rug I've ever seen in my life. His kit is destroyed and mic'd up everywhere possible with equally destroyed microphones. Meanwhile, Brian Gibson's base is covered in reflective stickers, and the side of his bass amp stack has a smiley face ripped into it. And when Chippendale dons his luchador mask with a Bane-like voice modular stitched to the inside, how do you not expect something insane to happen? Sure enough, a mosh pit crowded, formed, and moved like a swamp monster all in one fell swoop. Photographers who had the pleasure of taking pictures of Liturgy in a relatively peaceful environment dove for their bags, hanging on for dear life. Then as Brian Gibson pulls more notes out of a single bass string than I knew was humanly possible, it's all over. There's no more order - just beautiful, colorful chaos.
Lighting Bolt's latest Fantasy Empire finds itself among the band's best work. It's heavy, brutal, kaleidoscopic beauty, all filtered in a way that makes it hard to see with the naked eye. But while the crowd reaches for the earplugs they said were only there in case of emergency, Gibson and Chippendale are ripping out some of the most technically insane stuff around. Both Lightning Bolt and Liturgy seem to make their way about a career by harnessing chaos. Tonight was especially fun because we got to see those two distinctive styles juxtaposed so tremendously. Between Liturgy and the two Brians, beauty doesn't get much louder than this.
Liturgy's industrial opus The Ark Work and Lightning Bolt's experimental thunderstorm Fantasy Empire are both out this month on Thrill Jockey. Go pick them both up at your local record store and put some fire in your life.
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