With one member living in Chicago, another recording virtually every band in Milwaukee at his Howl Street studio and the band’s third bass player busy in a heft of other great local acts, Call Me Lightning’s production has slowed to a near halt since the veteran rockers released its particularly well-received third album, When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free, in 2010. Still, even a semi-operational Call Me Lightning, justifiably, elicits excitement both locally and beyond. When the band streamed “Now We Have Begun” off its forthcoming Human Hell last fall, it was met with eager anticipation.
Fittingly for the band in its umpteenth victory lap around a music scene it helped put on the map externally, Human Hell was thrown on Bandcamp by CML’s new label over the weekend with no warning and no release show booked. The subtle surprise almost four years in the making is a gift nobody (including drummer Shane Hochstetler as of late last week) expected to arrive March 1, but something even the most impatient Lightning lover will deem to be worth the wait.
After peppy title track “Human Hell” starts off the 10-song record of the same name, the band sidesteps the rhythmically chugging and semi-concept album elements oft-employed in When I Am Gone… in favor of the jangly, “Not The One” and the dingy-while-strangely singalongable “All Your Dreams Are Dead” that are both reminiscent of decade-old pinnacle The Trouble We’re In and Soft Skeletons. Nathan Lilley’s crunchy guitar licks and delightfully undone vocals channel “Bottles And Bottles”, “Meet The Skeletons” and other songs of yore, as gritty rock renderings with bleak and bloody overtones effortlessly gets toes tapping.
New bassist—in terms of this being his first album, not new to the band in which he’s played for close to four years—Tyler Chicorel doesn’t seem to wield the same hammer of lyrical or musical input as bass predecessor (and former Father Phoenix bandmate) Kristopher Maedke-Russell did, which allows Call Me Lightning to, thankfully, bridge the gap between its anthemic party-rock past and divergent and borderline metallic third album. Beyond busy bass lines, Chicorel also lends some great harmonies on songs such as “Live Forever” and “Pigeon Blood” that balance out Lilley’s endearingly unhinged and ever-present howl.
As the chaotic and rhythm section highlighting “Did You Survive?” ushers in the final three minutes of the scantly half-hour release, we haven’t been reintroduced to a new, improved nor drastically different edition of Call Me Lightning. However, with a band like Call Me Lightning, more of the same is hardly a bad thing. The catalog traversing Human Hell is no different. It’s simply another solid helping of the always-satisfying dish that is served to you much less frequently than it used to be.
Fortunately, this serving is good enough to hold you over for a few years.