Brian Fristoe: guitar
Jeff Martin: vocals
Skot Thompson: bass
Nicholle Dieckman performs backing vocals on "Vego".
Tracks 1-7: Recorded and engineered by: Paul Maccarrone and "Buddy" Akita @ Zombie ProofStudios - Cleveland, OH.
Track 8: Recorded and engineered by: Adam Smith @ CDR - Columbus, OH.
Mixed by: Benny Grotto @ Mad Oak Studios - Allston, MA
Mastered by: Chris Goosman @ Basline Audio - Ann Arbor, MI
Artwork and Design by: Joe Fortunato
As far as I know, Thin Lizzy and Hawkwind never played together, but if they did and had a late night jam session Lo Pan’s Sasquanaut might have been the result. This was originally released on another label but when Small Stone signed the band they did some remixing and remastered the whole thing. Never heard the original, but this sounds great. Vocals have a nice distorted halo around them and the band crushes while it swings. They can get kind of trippy at times like Mick Bolton era UFO but never to the point of pointless noodling.
Small Stone Records have always been a trusted partner. For so many years now the Small Stone logo has been, not just a badge of quality but an assurance that you're going to be getting your hands on some heavy duty fuzzed up stoner rocking goodness. Just lately though, they've been cheating on us. Admittedly amazing releases by the likes of Black Sleep Of Kali, Luder and Blackwolfgoat have been the musical equivalents of late nights in the office, secret phone calls, lipstick on the collar...etc and have deviated from the tried and tested Small Stone formula. So it is with this latest offering from Lo-Pan, Small Stone have very much come home.
Originally released on the small indie, Nice Life Records but quickly sold out, this is Lo-Pan's second album and has been given a judicious sprinkling of magic dust by Small Stone. Taking the original master tapes into Mad Oak Studios under the guidance of Benny Grotto, the band has administered a small amount of rerecording and a healthy dose of remixing and remastering to show why Lo-Pan deserve their place alongside the cream of the Small Stone roster.
Everything we have come to love and respect from the label is in place here. The riffs are bigger than Axl's ego and the grooves will have you dry humping complete strangers in the street!!! Jeff Martin's soaring vocals are clean yet edgy and treated with the merest hint of distortion to give the impression that the recording equipment is being pushed into submission. Song wise, "Dragline" grabs your hair and pulls you into the album with stomping hobnail boots kicking your ass the whole way. "Savage Henry" blends, fat rhythms, sexy grooves and some lysergic touches of psychedelia for good measure. Elsewhere "Kurtz" shows some of same touches that made early Soundgarden such and exciting proposition along with some of Kyuss's rolling grooves. It has to be said that, with Martin's voice, it is difficult to make wholesale comparisons to other bands. Influences to peer over the fence but the vocals have an identity that sets Lo-Pan aside from many of their peers. If pushed though, as I've already stated Soundgarden and Kyuss would be good starting points, particularly as "Callahan" and "Vega" both pull from the same offbeat rhythmic territory as the former band's "Spoonman", albeit with "Vega" introducing an injection of amped up fury to the mix.
Having never heard the original version of the album (prices for which I assume will dramatically increase in the wake of this release amongst the completists), I'll take the label's word for it that this is a vast improvement...it's certainly impressive with plenty of guitar crunch on tap and a tangible warmth and depth throughout. Despite not being originally recorded at Mad Oak it now bristles with that studio's trademark expansive fuzzed up, punchy tones.
With this release Lo-Pan show that they've always been a Small Stone band...it just took a while for the band and the label to realise it. The label's faithful followers will lap this up and place it in the unholy pantheon alongside bands such as Roadsaw, Sasquatch and Gozu. Newcomers to Small Stone would do well to check this out as a starting point and stoner fans anywhere should be happy to load a bong with this as the soundtrack.
- Ollie Stygall
Here, we have the remastered and remixed version of LO-PAN's second album, which was originally released by Nice Life Records in 2009. Small Stone Records is responsible for this re-issue and I am surprised that they did not sign the band right from the start, because LO-PAN meets the requirements for this excellent label. But anyway, now they have found an eminently suitable home for their emotional heavy sound. LO-PAN's blend of hardened riffs, musical talent and Jeff Martin's sensitive yet powerful vocal style creates a sound that is somber and complex, groove-laden and riff-based. The way that they weave and twist the guitar melodies, drums, expressive vocals, and underlying bass rhythm is beyond me.
Brian Fristoe's virtuous guitar playing is diverse and his crispy tone is crushingly heavy. His playing has a metal feel with some truly creative and beautiful touches. Jeff Martin's voice is at one minute an almighty roar, followed by a near whispered hush, yet all the while retaining a fear, mistrust and vulnerability that only adds to the overall power of the sound. But don't get me wrong, none of the musicians stand out over one another, as all of them move in one seething mass, like a machine pumping out adrenaline rushing tunes. If necessary, a bit of psychedelic is woven into the song structures, but this does not lead to a 1960's/1970's revival orgy. In my opinion, LO-PAN are deeply rooted in the here and now without ignoring the history of heavy rock and rock 'n' roll.
'Sasquanaut' makes a clear and concise musical statement from start to finish and it is seething with tension. There are plenty of different shades and textures here so that this album never becomes repetitive or stale. All in all, 'Sasquanaut' is crisply produced, thoughtful, and loud album. Do not expect to get into this album after one listen. It takes time, but I think it really is worth our time. So go and buy this shimmering beauty!
Ohio's Lo-Pan originally released their sophomore effort, Sasquanaut (it's a sasquatch and an astronaut, get it?), in 2009, but after linking up with Small Stone Recordings, the album was given a good scrubbing (otherwise known as "remixed & remastered") before being reissued at the top of 2011 -- happy friggin' new year! All of which hardly disrupts the space-time continuum, conveniently enough, since Lo-Pan's music subscribes to that timeless brand of stoner rock that has been dancing around mainstream sensibilities for three of the four past decades, give or take the 1980s, with only minimal alterations or wear and tear along the way. Why f**k with a good thing, right? Anyway, in Lo-Pan's specific case, the hyperactive, oftentimes dizzying guitar work erupting out of "Dragline," "Vega," and long stretches of the ten-minute "Wade Garrett" (the song, not the actor…that would be gross) recalls fellow Buckeyes Red Giant; and yet Jeff Martin's possessed and soulful growl puts him in a different league with, oh what the heck, a Rob Tyner ("Are you ready to testify, brothas an' sistas?!). But the band arguably really excels when indulging in the leaden grooves, hypnotic psychedelics, and thundering doom of tracks like "Savage Henry," "Kurtz," and "Vego," which crush entire city blocks with the ungainly subtlety of Godzuki. Either way, perhaps the ultimate advice to be gleaned from this review is that a mega-bong isn't required, but is certainly recommended before tangling with the Sasquanaut.
- Eduardo Rivadavia
The boys from Columbus Ohio have taken rock-n-roll that is as heavy as steel , welded it together with psychedelic oxygen and acetylene, added a voice box that is fuzzy and strong and created a robotic juggernaut that is titled “Sasquanaut”. This album punched me square in the face and knocked me flat on my back. Then it prompted the dancing of delicate birds and butterflies around my unconscious mind. Just like a cartoon. Better than reality.
“Dragline” pounds your face with crushing bass and rings your ears with relentless crashing cymbals. The vocals, and throughout much of the album, push the sound board needle into the red with deliberate intent. Then “Savage Henry” sneaks in with ambient drums and tickling guitar in the vein of ISIS. POW! Then a fist to the face from the robotic giant. Driving and pounding for 7 minutes of pure rock ecstasy.
“Kurtz” has a skipping beat that induces dancing and thrashing. This stoner band asks us to get off the couch and march through the wall. Mindful to stay droned out while unmistakably kicking our ass with heaviness and powerful, soaring lyrics. “Callahan” is the shortest track at 3:31 but seems packed with the most notes. I shall use the word thrash to describe parts of “Callahan.”
“Kramer” returns to more spaced out stoner rock with soaring vocals that grab you and make you listen. “Vega” and “Vego” bring us near the end of the album. “Vega” being noisy and thrash enriched. “Vego” being more stripped down. The album ends with a 10 minute plus epic track titled, “Wade Garrett.” I use the term epic because it is reaffirms my thoughts of Lo-pan as being the musical juggernaut they are.
As Jack Burton always says, “The check is in the mail” and Lo-Pan has the talent to pay it.
Review by Mood:Doom
The best heavy rock marries the crushing weight of a fat dinosaur to memorable melodies that slither and soar – Black Sabbath and Kyuss both had that down cold. Lo-Pan re-officiates that marriage and presides over the subsequent orgy on Sasquanaut (Remixed & Remastered). Originally self-released with a bit less fidelity (hence the parenthetical designation), the sophomore LP from the Columbus quartet undulates with shimmering walls of six-string distortion and nimble rhythms that know when to smash and bash and when to pirouette. Singer Jeff Martin brings a shit-ton of charisma and flow to the proceedings as well. Thus the combo is equally comfortable with rumbling dirges (Kurtz, Savage Henry), atmospheric drift (Vego) and driving rock & roll (Vega). When Lo-Pan puts it all into one track, as with the epic Wade Garrett, it really takes off into the smoky stratosphere. Admittedly not the most innovative band on the block, Lo-Pan forgoes experimentation and just lays down the jams with passion, precision and power.
- Michael Toland
Small Stone’s first release of 2011 — “Baby New Year,” if you will — is a reworking of Ohio rockers Lo-Pan’s much-revered 2009 second offering, Sasquanaut. What was one of the best riff-rock releases of its original year of issue is bound to stand up also to whatever the rest of 2011 brings, as the album has been completely remixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Massachusetts and remastered by Chris Goosman. I never really thought of the fidelity of the original Sasquanaut as a problem, but hearing this new version — which has the exact same tracklist in the exact same order — there really is a palpable difference, most notably in the guitar of Brian Fristoe.
Where Fristoe was somewhat held back in the mix of the original Sasquanaut, Grotto brings him front and center on the Small Stone version, still allowing Jeff Martin’s soulful vocals to cut through, but definitely beefing up the tone and giving cuts like “Kurtz” and “Dragline” a feel much closer to what Lo-Pan sounds like live than they had before. The same holds true for the bass of Skot Thompson, which is fuller and more natural sounding, and while J. Bartz’s drum sounds were a big part of what made Sasquanaut so killer in the first place, they too have been given a working over, to their benefit. There’s more separation in the instruments all around, and as the groove “Vega” is maintained, there’s no way it was going to come out a loss for anyone who, like me, already dug the album before.
One thing I notice in listening to Sasquanaut now is how much more dynamic the band sounds. Where previously I thought of Lo-Pan as only really offering straightforward stoner grooves (and excellent ones at that), hearing the slower approach of “Kramer” now, I get a sense of an entirely different mood, not just a change in tempo. I’ll allow this might be me reading into it, but it’s true nonetheless. Likewise, the memorable doubled vocals from Martin on “Vego” seem to stand out more in the song, sounding more like an event than a simple call and response mechanism. What remains constant across both editions of Sasquanaut is Lo-Pan’s ability to write a driving, catchy rock song in a well-established aesthetic while still sounding original, vibrant and exciting. Doubtless that’s what brought them to the attention of Small Stone in the first place.
Fans of Sasquanaut’s prior incarnation will be thrilled at the aural improvements of the new version, and anyone who didn’t hear the record before who’s still reading this, consider it recommended. More than anything else, what this reissue does is to build my anticipation for Lo-Pan’s follow-up full-length, set to be recorded with Grotto at Mad Oak sometime in 2011. If this is what Grotto can accomplish with the raw materials the band gave him from their original studio sessions, I can’t help but be excited to see what he and the band come up with working together from the start. As we’re undoubtedly a ways off from that here in late 2010, I’m just happy to have this new Sasquanaut to tide me over. The potential here is still as palpable as it was when the album was just released.
Originally released last year on Nice Life Records, Lo-Pan’s Sasquanaut has been given a thorough turn in the ol’ cement mixer courtesy of their new label, Small Stone, who probably built a nice addition to their headquarters with the cinder blocks formed from the thick concrete riffs on what is now known as Sasquanaut, mark 2. The fact that this album has been remixed and re-mastered is supposed to mean there’s a bit more spit and polish to the Ohio band’s brick n’ roll, but the stoner fuzz here is so gritty I can’t help but think that they placed the majority of the emphasis on the spit and polished what was left with coarse sandpaper. Lo-Pan are true bruisers, man, barreling their way through the eight songs on Sasquanaut like a dump truck driver on PCP, and should throw a wrench into the power rankings over at Small Stone thanks to their Bigfoot-in-outer-space sound (or gorilla as the cover suggests), which will instantly remind you of any number of combinations consisting of Roadsaw, Sasquatch, Devil to Pay, Kyuss, Antler, Los Natas, and Orange Goblin. Heavy, loud, and dirty, just the way we like ‘em.