Even though we’re far beyond the mid-1980’s, I’d be willing to bet that when you think of Heavy Metal from Los Angeles, California you probably think of androgynous guys in leather pants and eyeliner. There are still a lot of bands out there who fit that description, but Lightning Swords Of Death are not one of those bands. Well, maybe the leather pants, but other than that, no way. These guys would scare the mascara right off of any Glam Rock band that dare cross their path. In spite of the sunny California backdrop, L.S.O.D. have been cranking out fierce, Thrash-influenced Black Metal since 2003. Their latest offering, ‘Baphometic Chaosium,’ sees the band stepping further into the dark recesses of Black Metal and unleashing a seven-headed beast of an album.
The title track opens with a tuneful bass arpeggio with march-like drums beneath harsh, slightly reverberated vocals and heavy guitar chords. This begins the album with a dark mood (befitting of this song’s NSFW music video) before switching to tremolo-picked riffs and blast-beats, assuring you that this is no-holds-barred, angry, evil Black Metal. The tempo shifts often without being too chaotic and the guitar leads bring a sinister melody to the song. Strap yourselves in, you’re going to a very dark, scary place and you’re gonna either love it or run away screaming.
“Acid Gate” comes flying at you like an infuriated banshee before backing off just enough to draw full attention to the band’s vocalist, Autarch. The vocals on this song switch from raspy scream to whisper to bellowing mantra and effectively carry the intense, terrifying mood presented by the rest of the band. The main riff in “Psychic Waters” is played shakily with a wailing lead beneath it. The guitarists here create an atmosphere that is, in a word, unsettling. I’d actually like to play this in a dark room for someone who has never heard Black Metal just to see how they’d react.
The band finally slows down a bit at the album’s mid-point, “Chained To Decay,” but only to deliver a menacing riff that chugs along towards a creepy interlude, resulting in a dramatic finish of huge guitar chords and lengthy screams. To the layman, think “sonic horror film” and you’ll be pretty close to understanding how this album sounds. When playing at full-throttle, the music can be likened to that moment the killer bursts through the door and starts chasing his victim. The ensuing carnage is what you’re paying for in a horror film, much like blast-beats and dissonant, tremolo-picked riffs are often what fans want from Black Metal. While there is a great deal of high-speed riffing on display throughout ‘Baphometic Chaosium,’ the moments where Lightning Swords of Death slow down are vital to setting the listener up for the big scare.
The nearly 8 minute track, “Epicyclarium” brings to mind recent Mayhem albums, but in a way that shows L.S.O.D. expanding on a concept rather than blatantly copying it. The band transitions from wall-of-sound to mid-paced, mosh pit-inspiring riffs and back again before closing with a reverb-drenched riff to lull you into a false sense of security. The final track “Oaken Chrysalis” shatters that security with pummeling double-bass drums and the kind of irresistibly catchy riffing that incites fervor amongst a crowd of metalheads. A fitting closer to an album that rarely lets up, if at all. This is controlled chaos in a maddening din of minor keys and tortured screams. This is a lightning sword of death to false metal.