Local music: Struck by Lightning

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From the May 3, 2012 edition

At this point it’s becoming unclear whether exposure to Columbus metal band Struck by Lightning or actually getting struck by lightning is a more life-altering experience.

“True Predation,” the quartet’s second album for Pennsylvania label Translation Loss, will char you, to be sure. Raw and unkempt in its rage, the album captures the band’s ballistic live presence, shards of noise and piles of sludge raining down at supersonic speed.

At the center of the tumult, Gregory Lahm provides the burn. A short, slight man with a humongous, blood-curdling lung capacity, he spews ceaseless anger and frustration. One song it’s “f--- you forever”; the next, “there’s no f---ing future.” Dude gets bleak.

You wouldn’t know it from kicking back in Lahm’s Grandview-area living room and listening as he and his bandmates rave about touring Japan last fall. (Among the country’s winning characteristics: Coffee is sold in pre-heated cans; the bands slay; you can smoke indoors and drink in the street.)

The conversation was downright ebullient. Then again, someone might say the same thing about a roomful of metal maniacs shouting Struck by Lightning’s lyrics with every gust they can muster.

“This band is an outlet for negativity, but in a positive way,” Lahm explained.

All the hopeless, angry yelling is “therapeutic,” drummer Travis Kline explained, a thrilling and even communal way to vent. Lahm keeps screeds like “Sickening Reality” and “We Are All Rotting Corpses” vague enough to read in your own frustration and join the cathartic bile-spewing.

“I think we all have our distaste for mankind sometimes,” bassist Thomas Owens said. “This is kind of our way of dealing with it without becoming reclusive schmucks.”

Speaking of reclusive, the once hard-touring Struck by Lightning didn’t hit the road at all in 2011 until the Japan trip sprung up last November thanks to a last-minute invite from an overseas friend. After spending most of the year writing the material for “True Predation,” touring abroad seemed like a golden opportunity to get revved up again. On the other hand, taking off from work and traveling overseas with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment is a precarious investment.

“We could have lost our ass on that tour,” Lahm said. “It was a big risk for us.”

Instead, the trip was a kick in the ass for Struck by Lightning. They were well received and returned ready to rip into January and February recording sessions with Eric Cronstein at The Tone Shoppe.

Having streamlined their songwriting into something leaner and perhaps even more menacing, they asked Cronstein to forgo the polished production of debut “Serpents” for a grotesque, grimy sound. Cronstein, who usually records lighter, brighter music in the vein of Tin Armor and Saintseneca, managed to catch, ahem, lightning in a bottle. “True Predation” feels unrelentingly forceful and immediate, pristine in its delivery of filth-ridden power chords and grotesque howls.

They’ll perform the album in full Saturday at Carabar. Another gig with Tragedy, a major influence, looms later this month, and they’re currently locking down summer tour plans. To chart their path, just follow the smoldering.

Photo by Eric Wagner