Sonic Citadel Image

Generally favorable reviews - based on 11 Critics What's this?

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Universal acclaim- based on 9 Ratings

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  • Summary: The seventh full-length release for the Rhode Island noise rock duo of Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson was recorded with Seth Manchester.
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 11
  2. Negative: 0 out of 11
  1. Oct 10, 2019
    A multi-faceted and especially curious collection of Lightning Bolt material, Sonic Citadel shows the band still growing and developing nearly a quarter century in.
  2. Oct 23, 2019
    Sonic Citadel towers over its surroundings as one of the best albums of Lightning Bolt’s career to date.
  3. Oct 10, 2019
    The record proves that Lightning Bolt are still very much a force to be reckoned with.
  4. Oct 15, 2019
    There is restraint here, an alien concept for a band of Lightning Bolt’s usual undiluted abandon, but there is also the gleeful harshness which makes them such a force of the underground music scene.
  5. The Wire
    Oct 16, 2019
    Sonic Citadel is a showcase for titanic, incisive riffs, gnarly yet immediate, accessible. [Oct 2019, p.56]
  6. Oct 14, 2019
    Underneath all the fuzz, there’s always been pop sensibility at work; Lightning Bolt riffs have been catchy in their own warped way since Ride the Skies. But at points, they allow those instincts to come into startling focus.
  7. Mojo
    Oct 22, 2019
    They remain ridiculous, but thunderingly good fun. [Dec 2019, p.91]

See all 11 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Oct 14, 2019
    With the release of Sonic Citadel, Lighting Bolt seems to be closing up shop. It’s a perfect way to cap off their 25-year career. They’ve beenWith the release of Sonic Citadel, Lighting Bolt seems to be closing up shop. It’s a perfect way to cap off their 25-year career. They’ve been developing to the point of pop construction since Wonderful Rainbow. And they don’t fall into the conventions that might’ve brought them to what could’ve been their weakest final breath. They slam into it with their own signature sound. While also tackling the memories of all the days that led them here. On Sonic Citadel, you can hear Wonderful Rainbow, Hypermagic Mountain, and Fantasy Empire.

    They don’t abandon their nature and modus operandi to be more accessible. They have, like they’ve done in the past, created a project that’s in conversation with itself. The first track isn’t just so perfectly titled, Blow To The Head, it’s so well placed in the track-list. It really does feel like a blow to the head in how Gibson’s riffing explodes in time with Chippendale’s violent bashing. It’s so loud and frenzied, and being followed by USA Is A Psycho, they introduce us to the album with a manner of instability.

    Air Conditioning was the first single released from Sonic Citadel, and when I first heard it, I hated it. It sounded so conventional and lazy when compared to previous works like 2 Morro Morro Land and Colossus. But when it hits you right after USA Is A Psycho, it’s a complete diversion. You wonder about how they’ve always had a pop leaning to their music. And then Hüsker Dön’t, what might be one of the most unique songs in their catalogue. A song which has lyrics that you can actually hear and understand.

    Even on the songs still distorted by Brian Chippendale’s contact mic, there are lyrics. If you bought the vinyl (which I encourage) it comes with a lyric sheet. Hüsker Dön’t is easily one of the songs that define the album. It’s a song Chippendale wrote as a letter for his son to carry with him through life. And to have when he dies. As a part of Lightning Bolt’s ultimate album, it’s also a sendoff. Here you are, at the end of the road, seeing your favorite drum-and-bass duo saying goodbye in the most straightforward way they can.

    And of course, you have Halloween 3, a song they’ve been playing live since 2001. Right in the center. Followed by Don Henley In The Park. There’s a film by video artist Ben Russel called Black and White Trypps Number Three. It was shot during a Lightning Bolt show. He describes it as “A film that documents the transformation of a rock audience’s collective freak-out into a trance ritual of the highest spiritual order.” I think with Don Henley In The Park and Van Halen 2049, Lightning Bolt are showing us that they understand that ritual. They show a relaxed tilt to express the meditation one might experience in seeing Don Henley in the park. And then they have the all-out assault one might expect of their earlier work to end the album.

    In AV Club’s review of Earthly Delights, Jason Heller postulates about Lightning Bolt’s music as “The sound of God dragging his fingernails across the chalkboard of the cosmos.” What makes Lightning Bolt themselves is their consistent originality, even within their own genre. It’s hard to determine if they can make a bad song or album if they are their own standard. A standard in which they constantly upend. Whether or not this is their last album, it should be appreciated that in their 25-year career, they’ve never released a bad album. They’ve never disappointed (at least for me). And all along that journey, they’ve never given into anything that’s not themselves.