Struck By Lightning
posted on 11/2009 By:
According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are one in 280,000. The odds of being struck sometime during an eighty year lifespan? Still one in 3000. Shit happens, though. Just ask Roy C. Sullivan, who in his lifetime was struck by lightning seven times. Seven. Fucking. Times. His head, shoulders, chest and legs were burned. His hair caught fire several times. His eyebrows and eyelashes were burned off. He had a big toenail blown off from the inside out. He was struck hiding in buildings, while driving a truck (this one knocked him unconscious and the truck rolled off a cliff), and as he literally tried to outrun a cloud. After being struck (and surviving) the last time, while fishing at the age of 65, Roy crawled to his truck… where he was attacked by a hungry bear. Fate, you fickle bitch.
The bizarre circumstances of Roy’s ongoing bout with chance lay quite literally at the core of what defines Columbus, Ohio’s Struck By Lightning. They operate from the stance that individuals exist within hopelessly limited spheres of influence and so it pays to step back from the fray and acknowledge the will of the world. Let it happen, so to speak, and tend to what’s yours. This is Greg Lahm’s band who, after growing restless with the sonically expansive yet creatively limiting palette of Mouth of the Architect, amiably departed to found Struck By Lightning. SBL are very much aware of the extent of the control they wield within their sphere and, accordingly, have thrust themselves headlong into their craft with this first album and a ton of touring.
Given Lahm’s former stomping grounds, it would be completely logical to expect sprawling, atmospheric, sludge-core, but when he left MotA he moved to the other end of that sound’s spectrum and settled on increasingly crowded real estate developed by Mastodon and High on Fire, though in an area zoned for d-beat. SBL are comfortable in this neighborhood and have wasted no time in getting to the business of keeping up with the Joneses. Despite the undeniable energy and fire Lahm and company bring to the cul-de-sac, Serpents remains the Civic to the other bands’ Mustangs and Corvettes, even if it is sporting a Shogun spoiler and a fart can (you know, the modded muffler that makes the car sound a whole lot stronger than it really is). And that’s pretty much how it measures up for 8 of 11 songs – it’s fun, but you know there’s better. Sludgey, up-tempo riffing spliced with cleaner and angular-er chord progressions hang in packs and race the streets, making the neighbors wonder under their breath why these damn kids can’t simply think for themselves.
Of course, as a lot of upstarts do, SBL show a ton of promise. In following so closely in their elders’ footsteps, they’ve managed a rather impressive display of talent, notable in “Watchful Eye” and “False Hope.” And they aren’t afraid to call on old friends once in a while, as they do on “Becoming Earth,” the record’s closest foray back into MotA territory. Mostly, though, they do best when they apply themselves outside the familiar customs of their mentors, using the d-beat to raise the ruckus the neighbors had been dreading since the band moved in. “Supercell” and “The Herd” are the best examples of this angst-fueled affront to convention and represent the band’s best hope to avoid becoming just another reflective number painted on the curb.
So, despite their best efforts to foil the hand of Fate by focusing inward, Struck By Lightning remain beholden to outside influence. Serpents is well developed, if derivative, and is sure to play well on the road, so the band may be comfortable enough here to while the time away in relative security, but they’ve certainly got the chops and the drive to fortify their creative bastille well enough to stand on its own, Fate be damned. Here’s to hoping they have better luck than poor Mr. Sullivan.
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