For the past 15 years, Lightning Bolt's been creating soundtracks to losing your mind. Some have called it metal, but that doesn't quite fit. Neither do noise, punk, garage, lo-fi or thrash, though they all come close. With only drummer/howler Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson, Lightning Bolt writes pummeling, punishing musical tantrums that flail around and don't let up (sometimes for more than 10 minutes), much like the reactions of the crowds they play to.
Lightning Bolt began as a pet project while the boys attended the Rhode Island School of Design, initially with Hisham Baroocha (later of Black Dice) taking on the vocals. When Baroocha bounced around the turn of the century, Chippendale became Lightning Bolt's mouthpiece. But this was no comfortable Phil-Collins-singing-for-Genesis affair: Chippendale jammed the microphone into his mouth while drumming, affixed inside a mask.
A self-titled debut dropped in 1999, and each subsequent release -- five albums and a handful of singles and 7-inches so far -- bolstered the band's far-from-mainstream profile. But it wasn't the albums that got the kids talking -- it was the shows. Lightning Bolt doesn't play on stages, but in the middle of their crowds, creating a people hurricane with two guys beating up their instruments in the eye of the storm.
Acts like Hella and The Locust create similar rackets, but the chemistry between Chippendale and Gibson brings Lightning Bolt songs to a foaming, raging groove, as both players are nothing short of musically violent. Chippendale's echo-drenched, incomprehensible vocals often come as an afterthought, but a creepy, and thereby effective, one at that.
The duo's latest, Earthly Delights, came out last fall. Much like the critically adored Hypermagic Mountain of 2005, the record overflows with ideas: riffs, spazz-outs, space sounds, straight noise and, very occasionally, a real melody. Delights was no giant leap forward -- most folks would still pick Mountain or 2003's Wonderful Rainbow as the favorite child -- but it did shuffle things up a bit.
For a few seconds at the beginning of the track "Funny Farm," Gibson breaks into a warped country riff, and the music slows. But then the bass returns to sounding like a chainsaw, and all goes back to normal. In Lightning Bolt's world, that's anything but.
Lightning Bolt with Rotflol, Centipede Eest and Dire Wolves. 8 p.m. Fri., July 23. Belvedere's, 4016 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $8 ($10 at the door). 18 and over. 412-687-2555