Cosmic Rock

LIGHTNING BORN: Self-Titled (Ripple Music)


- Pat "Riot" Whitaker



I won't front, misconstrue, or lie about the fact that I am a longtime fan of North Carolina's Corrosion Of Conformity, one that's been there right from the start. As such, that also means I am "obligated", if you will, to check out any bands or side projects with ties to C.O.C., and there have been a few over the years. In recent times we have seen guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan venture out with Down while drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin has a resume including No Labels, Brown, Man Will Destroy Himself, and Teenage Time Killers.


Without question, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean has been the most active in outside musical outlets, the earliest I recall being the 1989 crossover-core act Snake Nation (where he was joined by C.O.C. guitarist Woody Weatherman). After that, during the Nineties came Spore and NineFinger, while the last decade has introduced Righteous Fool, Let 'Lones, Vista Chino, and Dean's latest external expedition, the North Carolinian band born in 2016 that brings us here today.


That band is the Raleigh based LIGHTNING BORN, whose roster sees Mike joined by powerhouse singer Brenna Leath (The Hell No, Crystal Spiders), ballistic drummer Doza Hawes (Mega Colossus, ex-Bloody Hammers/Hour Of 13), along with phenomenal guitarist, and well revered music icon in his own right, Erik Sugg (Demon Eye). In late June, this fantastic foursome issued their full-length, eponymous album debut through Ripple Music and though I have seen the band live at two earlier Maryland Doom Fests, those did not prepare me for the contents of said record.


Sure, I knew LIGHTNING BORN play fuzzed-out, blues tinted, heavy rock and proto-metal with a staunch vintage aesthetic about it. However, until one experiences the non stop rock and roll roller coaster ride of this album's eleven songs, everything else pales in comparison. Speaking of comparisons, there is a legitimate case to be made for LIGHTNING BORN drawing water from a wide range of wells. Everything from legacy acts like Heart or Pentagram, to contemporary bands like Brimstone Coven and Psychedelic Witchcraft.


If there is one word to use in summarizing this band, or this album either one, it is "retro". This is an immediate realization upon exposure to this recording's roll out number, "Shifting Winds", its thickly enriched tones and throwback feel going right to work. At times, I can almost imagine this song being intended for use in C.O.C. around the time of their 2012 self-titled outing (listen to "Psychic Vampire" from said album and you'll hear what I mean).


There truly is not a dull moment on this first at-bat from LIGHTNING BORN if you appreciate music leaning more toward Classic Rock and metal's earliest output. With each track's unveiling we are taken all over the musical map, from the Motörhead-ian undercurrents of "Renegade", to the real deal vibes of Grand Funk Railroad within "You Have Been Warned". Perhaps you prefer your jams possessed with mostly accelerated tempos like those of the tight knit "Salvation" but be warned, the bottom drops out midway. When it does, everything slows down while a haze drops like a cloud and Brenna wails "Nothing feels good... nothing ties me down / Nothing feels good anymore... anymore" and trust me, you are going to feel that moment of desperation.


In fact, haze is something that repeatedly envelopes passages of particular compositions, songs "Silence", "Out For Blood", and unquestionably, the album closing "Godless", are rife with it. The latter, "Godless", certainly provides some of the finest, most impacting moments of the record. Melodic and haunting at times, others stark and harrowing as the band hauls out the heaviness at points.


For me, there are a pair of standout selections that provide the electrified birth pangs that best represent LIGHTNING BORN. The first is "Power Struggle", a song where these players throw everything at you in a little under five-and-a-half minutes including chunky riffs and generous grooves. With the locked in rhythm section providing the song's anchor, hammered into place by Hawes, Sugg serves up some of his most incendiary axe work.


From lurching metallic discharges to riveting doom sections, emotion and intensity are major components in these tracks, perhaps none more so than "Wildfire". With music reminiscent of early Judas Priest topped off by a soaring, soulful vocal presentation from Leath, this is the band in their most traditional heavy metal state. It's a ripping, roaring, damn good display of everything that makes LIGHTNING BORN shine, and worthwhile.


If you are the sort that seems to be on that endless quest for the best in up to the minute musicality then you will surely want to acquaint yourself with the debut from LIGHTNING BORN. And no, they are not reinventing the wheel, but I don't think the band ever set out to do so to be honest. Instead, they bridge the historical past with the underground present by means of music careening across a wide aural tapestry. All the while it feels familiar, with glimmers of what has come before, yet simultaneously renewed and revitalized. Yes, LIGHTNING BORN and their self-titled record are the embodiment of sonic "nostalgia nouveau"... can you dig it?!