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Album Review

by Operation Rolling Thunder

Monkey Killer Records

Review Date
9th November 2010
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

‘111’ is the debut album from Dunedin’s fraternal noise duo Operation Rolling Thunder, named after an infamous tactic employed by the US Air force in Vietnam. Whereas one specialised in mass aerial bombardments, the other specialise in highly atmospheric, instrumental rock music that is capable of shaking the earth or drifting skyward. As with many two piece bands, the guitar is the centrepiece of their sound. It is played with great melancholy one minute and with overdriven tension the next (as in the interlude ‘Astraphobia’). Whenever the drums breakout in the mix, firing off namesake-appropriate crescendos (‘The World’s Greatest Lie’ or the thunderous ‘Behaviour in the Presence of Strangers’), they prove to be a force of nature capable of more than just keeping time.

Operation Rolling Thunder’s arrangements are generally minimal in nature – however sometimes minimal involves an overdose of white hot guitar shrieking. It ebbs and flows like the vibrations rattling down countless miles of State Highway 1. Long drawn lulls of gentle guitar strum and sparse percussion build and crest into a release of howling fuzz. When they decide to turn out a heavy jam to get the blood pumping they can groove and snarl with the best of them.

Brothers Adam and Rob certainly aren’t building their instrumentation in a classical rock structure as much as they are playing separate pieces that work in exhilarating tandem. Whereas most rock music speaks to urban sprawl and decay, Operation Rolling Thunder paints pictures of nature’s grandeur and cruelty. This more organic approach to music, the ability to play both distantly as well as with great immediacy earns a comparison in dynamics to NZs own Jakob, An Emerald City, and later period Isis.

‘111’ stands at a trim 32 minutes which, while a little on the short side, ends up playing to their music’s advantages. The band have enough time to sketch out their sound in engaging songs (perhaps movements is a more accurate description), construct them, burn them down, and carry on without ever overstaying their welcome. Considering how few elements the album is comprised of and its duration, by the end you can’t help but be amazed at how far it feels like you have journeyed. It is one of the most tasteful recent albums to stand under the shelter of the “post rock” moniker and is one of many fine debut albums this year from great Kiwi talent.


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