Skot Thompson: bass
Jeff Martin: vox
Brian Fristoe: guitar
Produced, Recorded, and Mixed by: Benny Grotto @ Mad Oak Studios Allston, MA.
Mastered by: Chris Goosman Basline Audio Labs Ann Arbor, MI.
Illustration & album artwork by Alexander von Wieding.
Photos by: JBartz.
All songs written and performed by Lo-Pan
Lo-Pan is a Columbus, Ohio based quartet whose latest offering SALVADOR provides a cavalcade of stoner grooves that hit hard and leave marks (“Seed”). This troupe dishes out heaping helpings of thick guitars and rollicking bass and drums, topped off with a soaring lead vocal that combines the grace of Maynard Keenan and the grit of John Garcia. Exhibiting the ability to compose tunes that sting like a smack to the face (“Bleeding Out”) and possess the imminence of hardcore (“Spartacus”) yet can also calmly float overhead (“Bird of Prey”), Lo-Pan commandeers a cross-section of fuzzed-out down-tuned excellence that can confidently stand shoulder to shoulder with the pioneers of the genre.
Rating: 4 out 5
- Mike SOS
Adapt or die that is very much the key to the continued existence of any musical subset and that is no more true than in the world of stoner rock. The world does not need any more tired rehashes of Fu Manchu/Kyuss/Monster Magnet circa 1996 and Small Stone Records are aware of this, and so are Lo-Pan...and thank fuck for that!!!
Sure, Lo-Pan have many of the familiar traits of stoner rock...the guitars are thick and fuzzy, the bass is fat and the rhythms rock ‘n' groove in a nice warm blanket like Benny Grotto production job. Lo-Pan, however, also have a few tasty tricks up their sleeve. Hot on the heels of the revamped, re-amped, re-mastered, repackaged version of "Sasquanaut", "Salvador" (named for their faithful sack truck that adorns the sleeve), is a bold, assured step forward for the band. Opening track "El Dorado" belies its Latino name with a twisting Middle Eastern style riff and soaring vocal that brings to mind some of Tool's more accessible moments. "Bleeding Out" does betray the band's stoner roots with a tasty, chunky four to the floor rocking riff though the band aren't above fucking with their music and throwing in some off kilter twists and turns. It's on the next track "Seeds" that Lo-Pan throw in every trick they have. The tune rocks out, it grooves, it messes with your head through spiralling, cyclical riffs and rhythmic tangents...this is both an album centrepiece and highlight in one.
After the pummelling of "Seeds" the listener will need to catch breath and Lo-Pan know this and so it is that "Bird of Prey" drifts in almost imperceptibly on an understated guitar figure and relaxed, breathy vocals. The mighty riff is never far away as the tune builds to a crescendo of classic rocking goodness that somehow comes over as equal parts Lynyrd Skynyrd and Soundgarden. In fact, the grunge titan's presence is never a million miles from this release due in no small part to Jeff Martin's clean yet powerful, soaring vocals. He is by no means a copyist but certainly plumbs similar emotional depths that eschews the whiskey addled, 40 a day growl on many of stoner rock's front men in favour of old school soul, grit and power.
"Deciduous" brings the riffs thick and fast with another nod to the stoner rock that put Small Stone on the map. Amped up and amphetamine fuelled the song kicks along but once again the bands aren't above throwing in some curve balls such as the Arabic twist that heralds the majestic pound of the mid section. Lo-pan, floor the pedal once more on "Intro", a cheeky little instrumental that, in less than two minutes, displays so many of the attributes the band have shown so far...off beat rhythms, twisting riffs and some ass kicking rock and roll. "Chichen Itza" keeps the pace up high, tipping its hat to some prime 80's style metal which is maintained through the next track "Spartacus" which has some vague hints of Iron Maiden within its stoner rocking charge. I can't help but feel though that the band have missed a trick by not including the lines "I'm Spartacus...no, I'm Spartacus" in the chorus but hey, it's their choice!!!
As you mop the sweat from your brow we find ourselves entering the home straight. "Struck Match" builds around a towering slow groove and betrays yet more hints of classic 70's style rock. The space in the track allows Martin his finest performance so far as he pushes himself to the limits of his endurance. The guy must surely rank as one of the finest vocalists in this particular field; in fact as I listen I hear a definite similarity to Keith Caputo from Life Of Agony in his impassioned delivery.
"Generations", continues the album in a familiar vein, big on riffs and grooves but doesn't really stand out as much as some of the other tracks here. By no means a weak track in its own right, just not as great as some of its predecessors. Things certainly end on a high note, however on "Solos". Not an ego stroking exercise in musical masturbation as I first feared but a powerful groove fuelled slice of prime riffery that sees Martin delivering his most catchy and insistent vocal line yet. All is not as it seems though, as with "Seeds" Lo-Pan delight in pulling more treats from their goodie bag and swiftly push the riffs aside to pull everything down to a barely there ambient crawl that builds into a monolithic rumble.
"Salvador" is a statement that seems to sit right at the heart of the Small Stone vision for 2011. It's stoner rock Jim but not as we know it. The beast is mutating into something that is threatening to burst out of its own skin as bands such as Lo-Pan keep one eye on their 70's rocking heritage but shoot it through with some 80's metal fire and, dare I say it, some prog rocking tricksiness. Lo-Pan may have entered Small Stone by the back door with "Sasquanaut" but with this release they've taken up residence in the best armchair and assumed dominion over the remote control and are daring all comers to usurp them.
- Ollie Stygall
With their new record 'Salvador', LO-PAN getting closer to the perfect album; it's a big step up from the band's previous release 'Sasquanaut' and that was already a great album. The songs on 'Salvador' are all significantly less sonorous and more direct than their work on 'Sasquanaut'. Jeff Martin's voice gives me goosebumps. He manages to infuse the music with a lot of emotion, stripped of kitsch and false pathos and ranging from anger to sadness. J. Bartz's percussion lines provide powerful punctuation to Brian Fristoe's amazing guitar riffs and Skot Thompson's flowing bass lines make sure that there's always the right punch.
What I also like very much is that LO-PAN don't try to reanimate the 1970s. I think that 'Salvador' is a perfect example for modern hardrock. In this context, modern does not mean trendy but rather that LO-PAN have more ideas than trying to ape their musical heroes from the past. There is definitely no filler on this album. Great care was taken with respect to the placement of the tracks, so as they could fluctuate the listener's mood as much as possible. If you can't listen to the album all the way through, then you are missing the essence of the album itself. The music is cerebral and spiritual, and concentrates more on mood and emotion rather than just simply pummeling your brains out of your ears.
On the other hand, 'Salvador' works on so many levels it's simply insane. You can play your air guitar but you can also sit down and think about life while listening to the eleven songs of 'Salvador'. Furthermore it's an album that one can listen to for years and still discover new treasures here and there. To be honest, the songs burn in my long term memory and I'm still able to recall them without listening to the record. That's a good sign for me. All this is complemented by Benny Grotto's masterful production which is thick and heavy and doesn't leave any wishes unfulfilled. 'Salvador' is truly a beautiful work and one of my favourite Small Stone releases in 2011. Highly recommended!
All too often, the story of the blue-collar rock band ends in a bittersweet resignation and phrases like "We were only in it for the love of the music." Ball-busting Columbus combo Lo-Pan is on course for a happy ending, though.
Lo-Pan's spaced-out sophomore LP "Sasquanaut" was re-released last year on Detroit's reputable Small Stone Recordings. Though they've returned to compact structures for "Salvador," their latest album for Small Stone, everything else about the album is huge, from Brian Fristoe's industrial-strength riffage to Jeff Martin's mountaintop howls. It's workmanlike rock from one of the city's hardest-working combos.
Hometown gigs are getting rarer as Lo-Pan continues to build a devoted following on the road, but they'll celebrate "Salvador" at Ravari Room on Friday with Eye, Fight Amp and Before the Eyewall.
- Chris DeVille
I feel that 2011 will be a memorable year for the guys in Lo-Pan, a re-release involving a remastering and and remixing of their 2009 effort Sasquanaut, and this year is their debut record for the label kings Small Stone who seem to be on the top of the world at this moment looking at their roster. It is truly inspiring to see a label reignite the vigour and fill the void Man’s Ruin Records left behind in the early 2000s. It is even more exciting seeing Lo-Pan’s brand of massive stoner rock be a hit with so many stoner rock fans, and why not? I think Lo-Pan are doing something special.
The aforementioned record Sasquanaut, Lo-Pan’s previous excursion, is a formidable record, chunky, robust, powerful, huge riffs and vibrant vocals. It has hints of top tier quality, but on a personal level it lacked an element that left me feeling unsatisfied. What I felt was missing in Sasquanaut was bite, an edginess, a, perhaps, missing maliciousness withheld in the riffs, they provided a massive groove for sure, and is definitely enjoyable, but what I found was that it, to use an allegory, stoked the fire and kept it hot, but there never is a moment where the fire became a fierce blaze. It didn’t catch alight the way I thought it had the potential to do. Step in Salvador, Lo-Pan’s Small Stone debut and their best record to date.
I believe that Salvador is a big milestone for Lo-Pan, this record is where they’ve announced themselves, more exclaimed themselves, that this is what we do, we riff, we kick ass, we are rock and fucking roll. With Salvador comes that bite I’ve been yearning for, a slicker yet more aggressive release that stacks up the desert-stained venomous riffs, that grooves and pummels in equilibrium, that squeals and kicks out with vicious leads, this is the Lo-Pan record that puts them firmly on the map.
However, I’ve found it hard to write to about Salvador. There’s an attribute of the record which dumbfounds me, not to put it unkindly, but the record doesn’t leave me astonished, but it does do something to me that leaves me blank. To use another allegory, it’s kind of like how the tide drags a beach clean, pulling anything out to sea, Salvador does the same effect to me, it leaves me with just the music, I’m not thinking when it’s playing, it has my full and undivided attention. I’ve attempted to write this review twice now, but each time I’ve played the record whilst typing, each time it’s left me staring into space letting the riffs wash over me and drench me in solos, the vocals pierce my thoughts and that all I can hear and think and do, listen to Salvador. It is certainly strange, though it does point to and reinforce the fact that this record is phenomenal.
Another improvement since Sasquanaut, are the shorter track lengths, this I suppose helped develop the record to be much more punchy compared to the 2009 release which I did feel to be longer than it should be, and I often found myself skipping the last song that rounds of Sasquanaut at a bumper 10mins. Salvador‘s concise and precise composition entailing of hit fast and hit hard works well, there’s many memorable hooks and doesn’t rely too heavily on the vocalist to depict which section the song is in.
For Lo-Pan, Salvador is an utter triumph, it is meaner with more aggressive riffing, the vocalist is much more relaxed when I felt he sounded more uptight on Sasquanaut (I don’t know why I think this, I just do), and the record doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, it does exactly what you want it to do, deliver huge and powerful riffs. Which the record executes in abundance.
The Cure with Three Imaginary Boys, that was the first thing that came in mind when I saw Lo-Pan’s newest cd. There is a lot that can be said of the Small Stone record label, but they have good graphic designers working for them. In the case of ‘Salvador’ by Lo-Pan I dare to say that the cover is the best part of this cd. Does that mean the music is not good? No, not at all, but as happens more often with Small Stone releases, this is another case of “almost, but not completely”. The previous cd by Lo-Pan, ‘Sasquanaut’, needed a big renovation in order to make it as both the band and its record company wanted it. When I reviewed it, I wrote that I hoped their next album would be good in one go. It looks as if they succeeded in that.
Lo-Pan’s rock really rocks, no doubt about it and the cd is well produced. Musically Lo-Pan can be categorized as a mix of grunge and early stoner rock (think of Soundgarden and Kyuss), with drummer JBartz’ hard beats and the characteristic lightly swollen vocals of singer Jeff Martin, with the guitar licks and riffs of guitarist Brian Fristoe swirling around them puts you twenty years back in time. Martin’s singing still reminds of Tool, but hey: you could pick your examples a lot worse.
Listen to the fabulous riff-stampede in ‘Intro’ or the wonderful scorching tracks like ‘Deciduous’ or ‘Chichen Itza’ and it should be clear what I mean.
The only thing against ‘Salvador’ is that it gets very much the same after forty five minutes, an objection ‘Sasquanaut’ had as well. Another one, how trivial it may sound, is that ‘Salvador’ may be good, it does not grap your attention. After those forty five minutes you are left staring in front of you thinking “okay, and now what?” A feeling that also came to me when I started work on this review. Strange, because is there something wrong with this album? No, everything adds up – and at the same time it does not.
Finding a fresh stoner rock album in the present era is as rare as a hen’s tooth. There are good and bad albums, there are stoner rock albums with good riffage, which is as you might know a core of every good stoner-fied album. But even with good riff-work these albums are lacking for something and you could spend hours bashing your head against the wall to find out what is it that’s missing. Stop bashing for a moment and put your attention right here.
Smallstone Records – my next stop. I received several downloadable copies of their recent roster additions and I may say that I am quite thrilled. For starters, I’ve choosen Lo-Pan’s latest achievement called Salvador. And what an album this is, my dear people. Salvador is the third recording of these Columbus, Ohio based rockers whom I had an opportunity to meet via their second album Sasquanaut, which was a great record, but what they have done here leaves that album miles and miles away. This one has the potential to become a classic in the subgenre.
What makes Salvador distinct from the overloaded ocean of stoner rock albums is the fact that the band’s formula of mixing strong riffs and melody succeeded and as a result we got 11 tracks in 46 minutes. These eleven pieces are extremely memorable, masterfully structured and well planned. With a thin line between stoner and mainstream rocking on moments, Lo-Pan is to be enjoyed by wide audience. Brian Fristoe’s frenzy solo guitar work leading a whole family of majestic riffs is the strongest factor that builds up Salvador. But, guitars alone are not the only amazing thing that makes up these soundwaves. Jeff Martin on vocals gives a singing lesson here, showcasing the melodiousness and aggression simultaneosly and doing it all in a very innovative way. Let’s not forget the rhythm section: Skot Thompson (bass) and J. Bartz (drums) deliver a fine portion of hi-class rhytmics, and together these two elements form a strong relationship that lasts from the very first tracks of the record to its closing beats. It doesn’t matter if you play this album from the beginning or from its middle or backward or in a shuffle mode – you will find yourself with mouth open wide no matter what.
The album starts off with El Dorado, and the band is determined to show straight from the beginning the energy, power and the hitting force that makes up Salvador.
The winning formula keeps on with Bleeding Out – monstrously heavy riffs coming in order, catchable refrains, never lacking for melody. All of this is emphasized further through the rest of the album. There is not too much polarization in the album’s structure, all these songs are of the same quality and it really looks like they are composed in one breath.
Seed flies in with an opening riff which is able to rise the dead, making a turnout towards a stoner-y direction.
Birds of Prey fades in as an interlude with a very calm opening, but the things start to rock’n'roll soon after this dull beginning. I think it wouldn’t be much to tell anything about guitar work here, that Fristoe dude shows a masterfully work throughout the album – nuff said.
Decidious trully sounds more progressive than some of the twenty-minutes-long-tortures neo-prog bands produce only because “we-need-such-an-epic-piece-just-because-we-are-prog” situation. So much is said in these three and a half minutes, thus we may conclude that Salvador satisfies also the appetite of a middle-aged prog listener.
Intro marks the entrance of the second half of the album and with its 1:48 it is a strong bridge, giving Martin’s vocals a break.
Chichen Itza is a diametrally symmetric to Decidious, emphasizing in that way a mirror-role for Intro. At the same time, as Chichen Itza starts off the second half of the album, there is an obvious parallel set between this piece and the album’s opener El Dorado. In general, this album may be considered as having a deep relation with mathematics, especially geometry. You can easily make parallels between songs or thread out axes through their structures – proving that way the theorems Lo-Pan writes. Having related this album with mathematical theories, I’m coming to the point to name this record simply as “The Riffing Manifesto”. Seriously, in a time when riffs have become totally monotonous due to repetition, Salvador appears as a smartly-arranged encyclopedia.
Spartacus keeps up the good work and is a sort of a rhythmic exercise with many breakups which lead into another frantically fuzzed out guitar solo.
The return to the ground with a slower Struck Match forms a doom ring around Salvador.
The songship floats further with Generations, which comes across as pretty energetic after the previous diverse piece. A feeling that shakes me after hearing this song is that the album enters as a potential candidate for those extreme sports TV channels, showing all those hellish exhibitions.
And finally the closing and the lengthiest song – Solo doesn’t show even a bit of fatigue because of the album’s end. On the contrary, it’s like the album just started, which is one of the advantages of Salvador.
These eleven pieces spread out like an infection, taking you completely and no matter of how much you listen to this record, it’s certainly not enough to satisfy your daily needs. Salvador is the opposite of boredom. Inspiring work, always interesting to hear, never predictable – isn’t it what you need when it comes to innovation in music? Modern stoner rock, that’s what you may expect to get out from this release. With bands such Lo-Pan, we don’t have to fear about the future of the genre. The renaissance happened once, but why not again?
- Nikola Savic
Imagine if the mighty progressive metal band Tool dropped some of its artier affectations and decided to just blast it out. The men of Columbus, Ohio’s Lo-Pan dreamed the same dream, taking that band’s widescreen ambition and connecting it to unpretentious 70s hard rock and boogie on Salvador, the follow-up to its debut Sasquanaut. That doesn’t mean Lo-Pan is dumbing anything down, mind you – only that the quartet remembers what it’s like to just rock the fuck out. Equally as adept as knotty, head-spinning riffs like the ones that power El Dorado and Spartacus as with the straightforward crushers that heave Bird of Prey and Bleeding Out right in your face, the band keeps tight control over its tower of power, balancing might and melody as well as anyone in recent memory. It doesn’t hurt to have a singer as soaring and charismatic as Jeff Martin or a guitarist as expansive as Brian Fristoe, either. Power, intelligence, passion and finesse make Lo-Pan as far from a dull band as you can get.
- Michael Toland
I’ve been neglecting my pile of recent Small Stone releases lately. They’ve been sitting here for a few weeks now and every time I try to get around to writing them the demands of reality (ugh!) demand my attention and another day slips by. But not anymore! Here a triple decker of new stuff from the unusually consistent rock label.
If you keep your records in alphabetical order and have Thin Lizzy right next to Tool then chances are Lo-Pan is for you. Fast, heavy, pissed off music with strong vocals and plenty of good hooks. There are some great guitar freak outs that would make both Tommy Bolin and Piggy from VoiVod smile. Lo-Pan hails from Columbus, OH and try as they might they cannot escape the classic rock stranglehold that exists in that part of the country but they’re way too heavy for any commercial rock station. Good songwriting and plenty of dynamics keep some of the longer songs from getting dull. Maybe they can convince Eric Moore of The Godz to contribute to the next one.
Ferocious instant hard rock classic sure to incite an epidemic of speeding tickets
This dynamite-driven bullet train of an album starts out fast and then picks up steam behind a furious guitar assault, mountain high leads and the bluesy howl of lead vocalist Jeff Martin. The guitar work is supremely potent, with powerful rhythms turning tight corners, adding a pummeling momentum to the album. The drums are more Mastodon than Zeppelin, but this is no thrash or prog album--this is straight up hard rock at its finest. Many bands who attempt to sound this heavy fall prey to the cliche of breaking up perfectly good songs with whiny ballad-like intervals that suck the life out of the song. Lo-Pan sidesteps such cliches by sticking to the blueprint--unleash hard charging music and don't slow it down until the album's over. Martin's delivery suggest that he's got some Skynyrd in his diet, adding a soulful tinge to his nuclear vocals. "Spartacus," "Bird of Prey," and "Chichen Itza" are the tracks to explore.
For people who like: Mastodon, Stone Sour, Sevendust, Killswitch Engage
- Joe Daly
Talk about grabbing the brass ring when it comes within striking distance -- Columbus, Ohio's Lo-Pan waste not an ounce of opportunity to impress with their first new album for Small Stone (and third overall), Salvador, which truly brought new hope of "salvation" to the stoner rock masses upon its release in early 2011. Yes, the promising signs were already quite evident on the group's sophomore opus, Sasquanaut (reissued just prior to this third LP), but on Salvador, Lo-Pan achieve a fluid balance of guitar-driven muscle and songwriting immediacy that amazingly leaves its predecessor sounding somewhat unfocused by comparison -- and it was really anything but. Yet such is the power achieved by steel-plated nuggets like "El Dorado," "Deciduous," and "Chichen Itza," groove-driven efforts like "Bleeding Out" and "Generations," and even histrionic slow-burners like the seriously psychedelic "Bird of Prey" and convincingly bluesy "Struck Match," where Lo-Pan's remarkable singer, Jeff Martin, eerily sounds like a reborn Joe Lynn f**king Turner…in the best possible sense. It's ultimately that old-school sensibility and recurring ties to classic rock of the 1970s, wed to a modern sonic power standard, that fuel and freshen Lo-Pan's material to oftentimes alchemical, transcendent thresholds, and should allow them to stand out from the herd in today's crowded heavy rock scene.
- Eduardo Rivadavia
Summary: Filled with bludgeoning riffs, pummelling bass lines, pounding drums and soaring vocals, "Salvador" is a stoner rock album that does slay hard.
The Columbus quartet Lo-Pan has been a big deal in the flourishing stoner rock scene since the release of their sophomore album "Sasquanaut" two years ago. The album showcased the band's progressive-inspired fuzzy variety of heavy rock that resulted in some truly unforgettable tunes in "Dragline," "Savage Henry" and "Vego" to name a few. After being taken under Small Stone Records' wings, they decided to trod more or less the same path with their new endeavor. This cannot really be regarded as a downside of any kind since "Salvador" happens to be a major improvement over their previous discs providing a collection of ingeniously crafted songs being both ballsy and intelligent.
Abounding with walls of six-string distortion, enormous bass lines and pounding drums the whole album sounds massive from start to finish. This is accompanied by crystal-clear, polished production which makes every instrument sound perfectly audible. Aside from some really imaginative guitar/bass interplays courtesy of Brian Fristoe and Skot Thompson, what chiefly impresses is the cerebral atmosphere ingrained in the immensely heavy, yet warm soundscape of the record. "Seed" might serve as an example with its expertly executed bludgeoning riffs, an impressive guitar solo and groovy bass slaping. Other than that, such tracks as "Bleeding Out" and "Generations" have a truly infectious old-school heavy metal vibe to them.
What's more, the songwriting on "Salvador" is more concise than on "Sasquanaut," which results in a way shorter compositions. That doesn't mean that Lo-Pan have resigned from their progressive inclinations to experiment with song structures since there are many additional shades and textures evident in the majority of tracks. For instance, "Bird Of Prey" starts with a meditative mellow riff only to transform into colossal heavy rock in the chorus, while "Deciduous" surprises with its sudden turn into slower distinctively haunting passages halfway through.
"Salvador" certainly wouldn't be the same record without the amazing vocals of Jeff Martin who is the heart and soul of the quartet. Even though his delivery is heavily rooted in the classic hard rock singing with a hint of Maynard James Keenan influences, Martin comes up with the type of powerful soaring vocals that add another new layer to the table. His arguably most accomplished work occurs in balladlike "Struck Match" being never less than moving with its personal, immensely affecting lyrics. In general, the lyrics can be described as thoughtful, metaphorical and not easy to decipher, which poses a challenge to any inquisitive listener.
Overall, "Salvador" is most definitely an early contender for the title of the rock record of the year. With enough stoner rock goodness to destroy bridges and skyscrapers alike, Lo-Pan show that they are one of several absolutely essential rock outfits working today and a major force to be reckoned with.
- Greg Fisher
With the release of Salvador, Lo-Pan has made the leap from an under-the-radar support act, to being one of Small Stone’s most invaluable assets.
The Columbus quartet has previously toured with established modern stoners, such as: the Atomic Bitchwax, Black Cobra, Red Fang, and many other credible bands that makes ‘70s proto-metal sound as critical now as it was then. Salvador, on the other hand, is simply a barrage of groove-orientated rock.
On the surface, it is easy to presume that Lo-Pan is yet another band looking to out-fuzz their orange amp sharing bong-rockers, however, the polished intensity of this 11-track release has widespread appeal, while also doing enough to please your average stoner – a quality that very few bands in this genre possess.
Although, they may sound like their contemporaries, Lo-Pan is a band that simply does it better. Jesse Bartz pounds out the opening, hypnotic beats of ‘El Dirado’ as Brian Fristoe’s decisive chugging introduces Jeff Martin’s soaring, yet rough-around-the-edges delivery – a soulful and melodic combination.
Like any other straight up rock band that is branded ‘stoner rock’ there is always going to be murmurs of the K-word, and the Californian’s influence is apparent during the mellow and melodic come-down of ‘Bird of Prey’, although, to be fair to the experienced quartet that is where the comparison ends, as this is a band who do things their way.
Meanwhile, ‘Chicken Itza’ flirts with hardcore skate-punk, while ‘Struck Match’ rises and falls gradually. For a band that has stayed true to their beer-stained rock ‘n’ roll roots, it is almost fitting that the album ends with the dynamic, torrid texture of ‘Solo’. Expect to see Lo-Pan headlining 2012′s Small Stone SXSW showcase.
It is an album that has gotten considerable praise from a lot of quarters across the globe; In my own case as I am getting to hear it later than some, I can only confirm what a lot of music reviewers have already said.
'Salvador', the third album released by Ohio band Lo-Pan is just pure, sugar-sweet rock 'n' roll of a timeless quality that, from start to finish, caters to the delights of hard rock music lovers. From the opening chords of the first track 'El Dorado' I kept saying over and over "That's the stuff, gimme more!" and the CD kept doing just that up until the final track ended.
A tune like 'Bleeding Out' is of a kind that has anchored FM radio for four decades and made a lot of guys want to drive cars really fast. There have been moments when I wondered if the appeal of the classic hard rock I grew up with could be reproduced properly. In my naivete it never occured to me that record companies might want to push something different upon consumers or that bands might want to play something different.
Tracks like 'Bird Of Prey' and 'Struck Match' have all the subtle touches of a work of musical genius and a band equal to the boldness of their approach to composition and recording. But there is no substitute for a singer who can actually sing and Lo-Pan vocalist Jeff Martin (not to be confused with American drummer Jeff Martin or the Tea Party frontman of the same name) is a uniquely gifted performer with a fantastic melodic voice.
Brian Fristoe's guitar work features some beautifully inventive solos. The rhythm section of J. Bartz on drums and Skot Thompson on bass slidly add depth to the sound. This is a band with obvious chemistry and they groove together with a sound that is of high technical proficiency but has a natural feel to it.
As I've said before about other things there are moments of immense satisfaction in any enjoyment of an art form which are so unforgettable that they make you want to keep looking for the next one no matter how long it may take and however many inferior works you might have to experience in between. 'Salvador' by Lo-Pan is one of those rewarding productions that re-energizes one's love for rock 'n' roll.
If you want to draw comparisons this is another of those bands whose sound brings many very well-known, chart topping artists to mind but the names of the great bands they evoke are far too numerous to mention. Lo-Pan describes their genre as being a cross between classic rock, crunk and psychedelic.
While I am generally the last one to pay much attention to packaging when it comes to bands and their CDs I can tell you that very few bands out there have a name as bland (Lo-Pan!? Sounds like a camera angle). I can also tell you that the album cover they chose for 'Salvador' is one of the most obtuse and brain-dead covers I have ever seen.
Is it their idea of putting the music first? At least nobody can call it blatantly commercial. But I can't believe the guys who composed this music would choose such an insipidly dull cover to go with it.
- Jason Daniel Baker
A raging, beating heart with a big set of balls hanging underneath is what immediately comes to mind whenever I think of Columbus, Ohio’s powerhouse quartet Lo-Pan. This band runs on nothing but steam powered emotion, and honest rock n’ roll. From the first time I saw the band I was impressed, and once Jeff jumped behind the microphone (or rejumped according to the band members themselves) the magic was complete. The band sounded ready to take on the world with the Sasquanaut LP, and subsequently took my soul by storm with each live gig I had the pleasure of witnessing. These guys were on a fuckin’ tear, and it was easy to tell that their next record was going to be one for the books.
Well, ladies and gents, the eve of Salvador has pretty much arrived. After spinning Salvador multiple times daily since receiving it, I can testify that angels are singing, my ears are ringing, and the nefarious, spiraling tones of Orange Amplification, massive rhythmic prowess, and propulsive, visionary vocal expulsions are chiming in heavenly unison. I may very well have been saved by the almighty, or my ass was just severely rocked by the devil himself…probably a bit of both. And I won’t lie to ya…I’ve been spoiled by about half of this stuff for the better part of a year, year and a half…and sometimes when that’s the case, and the live versions of new songs from one of your favorite bands finally crop on record, you’re bound to be a tad disappointed (especially when those live versions literally hit like a sledgehammer filled with dynamite). Well…that’s not the case here! Salvador is a fireball of riff charged energy that never lets up in its attempt at burrowing into the listener’s psyche by using whatever musical tools necessary.
With a wave of feedback, and the buoyant rhythmic plunder provided by bassist Skot Thompson laying down some beefy, bottom-beating groove, and drummer Jesse Bartz sinking into a locked on beat, the band whisks us away to “El Dorado.” Only in Lo-Pan’s vision of this legendary land, treasure seekers are mowed down by Brian Fristoe’s dialed in, wraparound riffs that bring to mind that classy 90s/ early 2000s (of course informed from the 70s and 80s) stoner sound without losing anything in translation. This music is written, performed, and recorded without a whiff of pretense…and the entire band is gelling like never before. An immediate upgrade is felt in the clarity, and punch of the tones all over “El Dorado,” and vocalist Jeff Martin has been upped in the mix significantly. Which couldn’t have been a better mixing move…his soaring, twisting voice is the true definition of “belting it out.” His uniquely timbered, caterwauling vocals scale the mountainous crags of this song, and give an added bite to the towering guitar/bass riffs, and the fancy hands drumming of Jesse Bartz (so much soul in his performances…he tackles every change with precision and smarts, knowing when to work the pocket, and when to step-up front with dexterous fill, and roll work).
You get a double dose of that same focus, and fury with the equally urgent, and agile, “Bleeding Out.” The intro to this one is simple, but dims the lights, and sets the stage for the show. A scruffy, fuzz-soaked riff shares the spotlight with an intent beat. Thompson follows the lead, and drops into a bowel-evacuating bass groove, and we’re off to the races again! Man, I wish I had this track’s youthful vigor in my bones whenever it was time to get up for work. I’d be there and back, and my boss would have a black eye. Somehow I’d be unseen through the whole affair. The vocals create limber hooks, and Fristoe’s transitioning between distorted megaton riffs, complex note arrangements, and nifty little Homme-style melodicisms (especially during the chorus) mean nothing but pure business. And Bartz goes nuts throughout…piling on intensity to each individual part, by somehow managing to accent each of his band mate’s stellar performances (check out the segment from 2:11 to 2:40 for a real showcase of flashy fills, pummeling kick drum, and aggressive snare/tom patterns).
The rolling, throb factor of “Seed” ups the heaviness quotient a bit. It taps into the raucousness of the first two tracks, but displays a frightening tenacity in the riffs (which are backed by burly bass lines), benefits from a scorching Fristoe solo in the second half that lasts an astounding 30 seconds, pounds your melon into a pulp with a heavier, more bottom intensive backbeat, and allows plenty of room for Jeff to wrap his chameleon like vocals around every note. It is certainly one of the album’s heaviest tracks, yet it doesn’t shed an ounce of soul in the process of whipping your ass into silly putty. The claustrophobic beating creates a need for repose, which is delivered in the form of the densely layered, 6 minutes and change “Bird of Prey,” a sore thumb standout in any Lo-Pan live performance. This one is all about establishing a mood, and making sure every instrument is zeroed in on said mood. A dazzling guitar melody works wonders over the ebbing, atmospheric rhythm combo. Thompson’s bass is the star of the show, anchoring down the beat and guitar licks with a rich, intoxicating groove that’s sure to get you high, whether you have a bag on the premises or not. When the chorus (which is already a permanent fixture in my mental storage space) kicks in, and the soothing tones spiral into a spire of solarized 70s riffs, insistent time keeping, and those wailing, one-of-a-kind melodic vocals, a plateau is reached…one in which the band are able to build on, and expand on however they damn well please. Post-chorus, Bartz builds on the mortar and pestle of his beat foundation, deftly wavering between flash n’ forte, and Fristoe’s licks develop this rising tide of riffs (with another red hot solo making an appearance later) that douse my mind in hope, and heartache. Something about this song makes me want to toast my father’s memory, and drop to my knees in sorrow at the same time! I draw some heady feelings from this tune, and with good reason…the tones and textures here vary so greatly from a warm embrace, to a hard-driving shellacking…simultaneously withering the mind, and healing it. No matter what ails ya, Lo-Pan’s got the cure for your own personal lumbago.
Back to full-throttle, “Deciduous” was a recent addition to the band’s live repertoire. It blew me away then, and it blows me away now. Another series of peaks, and valleys crop up on this one. The riffs apply constant pressure to the cranium, always changing in their delivery, and notation. From the thick hues of the verse groove which tips a nod of the hat to acts such as Dozer, and Only Living of Witness, to the soaring chorus lick, and the slow-motion, doom shuck that winds down the second half…there’s not a wasted moment of guitar work throughout. Fristoe has a bachelor’s in groove, and a doctorate in riffery, with the entire band providing a model for how stoned-out, head banging rock n’ roll should be played. Jeff howls his heart out of overtop, and constantly makes this reviewer’s job difficult in the sense of picking out his defining moment. The fact of the matter is that on Salvador, he shines on every track (as he did on Sasquanaut). While the Jonah Jenkins’ comparisons are at times warranted, it’s without a doubt in my mind that Jeff has developed his own highly laudable style…and the fact that such a comparison is viable, is a compliment of the highest order. It’s his soaring capabilities that invoke the comparison, and not exactly the voice itself. He’s his own thing, and we’re damn glad to have him! And just before the two minute mark, at the moment when you think you know where this song is headed, a heaving bass/drum showcase paves the way for a slower, more forceful RIFF that’ll Ginsu your guts out, leaving your bowels in a bloody pile on the floor. This massive groove looms over you like one of Jonathan Swift’s legendary giants, and Jeff stretches his voice to the breaking point. One of the album’s best segments, bar none!
Since Jeff worked so hard on the last track, the band decides to give him a breather on “Intro,” a fierce instrumental that nearly reaches a High on Fire level of pummeling. It’s Lo-Pan at their most metal, and they’ll peel the paint off your walls with catastrophic rhythms, riffs, and a shredding, extended guitar solo. This will definitely be a great bridge between songs in the live setting, and it also serves as a worthwhile, over the hump point to the final set of tracks. “Chichen Itza,” “Spartacus,” and later, “Generations” are constructed on a framework of walloping, dust eating riffs, hard-edged rhythms, and capillary bustin’ Jeff Martin vocals. I couldn’t pick a favorite between the three even if you held a gun to my head. “Chichen Itza,” almost wins the fight, for all of the sonic beat downs it’s given to me live. Such a powerful track overall, with even the opening riff having a climactic feel, but it just builds from there. The upbeat, jiving grooves, take drastic turns into rugged, rollicking riffs, tough as iron rhythms, and heart-wrenching vocal lines in the bridges, later collapsing into this driving, arid stomp brimming with ascending, almost punk-arranged riffs and relentlessly, pushing beats (tinged with classic rock of course), as the vocals ring out like exclamatory gunshots in the midst of a pitch black night. “Spartacus” is cut from similar cloth, but as always the riffs and ideas are carefully crafted so they differentiate themselves from other like-minded tunes on the record. The sinewy bass licks fortify the attack here, as Fristoe and Bartz home in on a set of cacti kickin’, desert dwellin’ grooves. Plenty of stops and starts to be found here, but a constant groove is always on tap, and it’s topped off by another white-knuckle guitar solo, and some of Jeff’s most memorable lyrical hooks to date (“Blood on the streetsAH!”).
I’ve been obsessed with “Struck Match” ever since I heard it live. You know a song’s a killer when it still sticks to your brain like glue after only one listening. “Struck Match” is THAT song. It’s a slow burner that absolutely feeds off of emotion (much like “Kramer” off of Sasquanaut), wrangling with some of the band’s most dynamic songwriting yet. A brief, guitar melody crumbles beneath the might of girder tough riffing, and a seismic rhythm. Everything builds deliberately as Jeff’s breathtaking vocals emote over top. By the time the chorus arrives, and Fristoe changes up the riff, and the band slows down the tempo about a half step, I was weak in the knees…and then comes Jeff booming to the forefront, testing his larynx to the fullest. Lines roughly translating into “I’m burnin’ and losin’ a life, I see it go, I’m leaving the battle behind, My heart and soul,” take on a whole new meaning with that fearsome voice spitting them out over an elephantine rock n’ roll grind. The track’s midsection sinks into waves of astral melody as the guitar rings out with gentle chords, and gracious psychedelic touch, as the Bartz and Thompson wrecking crew just absorb themselves into the atmosphere. Jeff’s part here is a sight to behold, as he takes front n’ center stage with THE defining vocal moment on the record…it’s practically a chance for him to sing a solo, and boy does he deliver the goods, leading his men and their music back into a wall of Man’s Ruin muscle. Closer, “Solo” is the album’s lengthiest track, but it packs in a lot over its 7+ minutes, and always freshens things up with a unique riff, gripping vocal, or structural change…it spaces out in all of the right places, playing it clean and melodic, and escalates into an inferno of tempestual riffs that are sure to have your head flying out of the socket from bangin’ the damn thing so hard!
I might have hit a world record on this one, but so much good music has been hitting my ears lately that the fingers just go with the flow. I’ll at least make the outro short. If you’ve ever liked stoner rock, classic rock, rocky rock, whatever…you can’t miss Salvador. As JJ said over at The Obelisk…if you like this sound, and somehow can’t get into this, you’re doing something wrong. In these dark days, this record provides a skyward lift. Top honors all around boys…can’t wait to see you fellas again in person!
- Jay Snyder
I had very high expectations of this album. It’s been reviewed very well by many other blogs. I thought I was going to have to wait until the Spring for it’s release, but lo and behold it was released on iTunes early. Score.
I put this album on repeat and listened to it multiple times start to finish. I never got bored with it; at first I analyzed it, I listened to the tones, to the individual instrumentation, to the songwriting and the lyrics, and then I found myself just really enjoying it. I remember seeing updates about the recording process on Lo-Pan’s Facebook page and it seemed that tracking took no time at all. That made me wonder what the end product would come out sounding like, but obviously Jeff, J, Skot and Brian were very well rehearsed and ready to go once they set foot in Mad Oak.
Salvador is sonically very thick and full and deserves to be listened to loud. As a musician, I’m more than impressed listening to the dynamic between the players; the build-ups, the break downs, all of it–so precise and well thought out. What review of Lo-Pan would be complete without saying “the vocals soar”? It’s true, they do. All four members really shine with stellar performances throughout. All in all this is a great record and it does set the bar high for bands with 2011 releases.
I honestly feel all the tracks are solid and can’t pick one I like better than the rest, there’s no filler on Salvador. Please, check it out yourself and get it on iTunes or wait til later this Spring and pick it up on a physical format.
I’m flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi… with America’s hottest stoner band… and we’re all about to die.
Not to imply that Lo-Pan are actually with me– just in iPod form. But still… they’re with me, ya dig?
Enough preamble– I try to review as fast and directly as possible: Lo-Pan, and Salvador, are the heaviest thing ever to come out of 1972. They’re the stoner Led Zeppelin to Goatnake’s (more) stoner Black Sabbath; they’re swank rock with funk rubbed all over it; they’re sex-smeared licks (opposite Sab’s Keef-smeared riffs); they’re 70s-isms + Karma To Burn (there’s one guitar player and on the actual record, when there’s solos, there’s actually only a bass guitar behind it– love that); they’re fuzz rock with an actual singer AND mature songwriting (you can hum the songs– you can even hum the riffs) that doesn’t sacrifice WEIGHT in the name of songcraft.
Salvador is subtler than it seems, too, Clyde– it doesn’t demand attention –don’t let it get lost in the fray– it doesn’t draw you to its intricacies like Earth or any black metal does; it’s the Olivia Munn to most stoner/ doom’s Kim Kardashian: after the afterglow (of purchase) has worn off, you’ll still want them around– they’re not obnoxious about their gifts. They’ve got more to say than is initially obvious.
Highlights: “Seed,” “Deciduous,” “Chichen Itza,” and “Generations.”
Though– it’s all good, man.
“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” Goethe said that.
Lo-Pan live it.
Hot off last year’s remixed and remastered Sasquanaut, Lo-Pan waste very little time dropping a pulsing crate of new songs right on to the collective heads of the Small Stone/stoner rock faithful. That crate, ever heavy and dangerous, is stamped Salvador (go ahead, smile at the cover’s clever rebus), and as best as I can tell was a wartime leftover that once contained a shitload of trinitrotoluene. But like a bunch of fearless jackals, the Ohio quartet have gone and pilfered all that TNT, wrapped it in the blood and crust of last night’s good times, repacked it in atomic dust, and sealed it with a fist. Its demolishing power is off the charts. Its explosive energy knows no limits. Its massive, mind-fuck aplomb is cerebral, not dumb, and the band practically urges us to embrace Salvador‘s surreal shock. I mean, there’s gotta be a reason “Intro” is the sixth song in, right? Anyway, what Lo-Pan does, quite obviously, is destroy, and I’m impressed with their ability to bring Kyuss’ groundbreaking desert rock vibe into the 21st century via soaring, melodic vocals over top of mean, fuzzy, smoky riffs.
- Jeff Warren
For nearly seven years, my measuring stick for Small Stone debuts has been the first, self-titled Sasquatch album, and each new band that’s come along on the label (there have been plenty) since then, I’ve said, “Well, okay, but is it as good as the Sasquatch?” Listening to Lo-Pan’s Salvador – which, admittedly, is their third album following a self-titled and the excellent Sasquanaut which Small Stone re-released late last year – I might have to revise my comparison point. I was fortunate enough to hear rough mixes of Salvador back in December, and even as rough as those tracks were compared to the finished product I’m reviewing now, it was clear that the Columbus, Ohio, band, the label, and anyone who would seek it out to listen, had something formidable on their hands. I don’t want to get lost in hyperbole or overestimate the appeal of the record, but Lo-Pan’s Salvador has all the makings of a classic in the genre.
The single-guitar four-piece present 11 tracks in just under 46 minutes, and nearly each one of them is perfectly memorable (I’m not counting “Intro,” though even the riff to that is catchy), varied in its approach and masterfully written. The guitars of Brian Fristoe are unrepentantly fuzzed out, and his riffs are heavy rock of the highest order, and Jeff Martin’s soulful, wonderfully melodic and inventive vocals cut through the thickness just right, followed by Skot Thompson’s running bass and the center-stage drums of J. Bartz. Having seen them live on more than one occasion, Lo-Pan is one of those bands where each element involved in the making of the songs just works so well, and on Salvador, not only are those elements working, but they’re working together. You can listen to any part of any song on this record and say, “That’s killer,” or you can listen to how the parts interact with each other and say the same thing. It comes down to this: if you’re not coming out of Salvador glad to have heard it, it’s your own fault.
Lo-Pan open uptempo with the duo of “El Dorado” and “Bleeding Out,” the two cuts together totaling a little over six minutes. “El Dorado” is the snap in your face to wake you up, and with “Bleeding Out,” the pattern is established; thick riffs, infectious choruses, soaring, confident vocals, tap-worthy snare. Both track stuff a surprising amount of groove into faster, hurried packages, which undercuts any rushed feeling that might otherwise take away from the material, and the five-minute “Seed” – the first of several Salvador high points; which is saying something considering the bar set here – brings the pace more to ground. Bartz underscores the verses with seamless tom runs while Martin’s vocals set up the chorus, and it seems almost like the song is split in two, as around the three-minute mark, Fristoe moves up a few frets and shows some excellent finger-work (Thompson not missing a beat in the process and giving one of the album’s best bass performances holding down the rhythm to complement a guitar solo). At 3:09, Bartz cuts to half-time on the drums, and it’s one of those “shiver up the spine” moments. Not to be missed.
“Bird of Prey” fades in on a quiet interlude – a moment to catch your breath listening. At 6:34, it’s shorter only than the closer, “Solo,” and a good show of diversity from Lo-Pan, who have up till this point showed only their latter two gears. Of course there’s a build, and the song gets more active than its subdued intro, but there’s still a change in vibe to something darker and more contemplative that “Bird of Prey” signifies, and I think what’s best about it is that it’s still essentially a rock song. The band is working within their stated framework and still managing to evoke a different atmosphere. They didn’t have to rely on any sonic tricks or radical changes; they just wrote a song in another mood. Doesn’t sound like much of a shift, but it’s really hard to do. Fristoe takes another ripping solo toward the end, and I like that when he does, he’s not backed by a second rhythm guitar track that wouldn’t be there in a live situation. Salvador is unquestionably a clean-sounding production – Benny Grotto at Mad Oak being Small Stone’s go-to man at this point – but there was clearly an emphasis on maintaining a natural, live feel as well, and that comes across just about anywhere you want to hear it.
Thompson’s bass on “Deciduous” is monstrous. The song might have Salvador’s biggest payoff chorus, and the interplay between Thompson and Bartz is central to why. The song is shorter, and leads into “Intro” – the centerpiece – but outstanding in both structure and performance. Martin is neither derivative of other stoner rock vocalists nor making any missteps in his approach throughout Salvador, but especially on “Deciduous,” his talent for melody and pushing his voice puts Lo-Pan over the top. Although I’m not coordinated enough to do either, I find I’m singing along even as I’m air-drumming right into the break of “Intro,” which is essentially just that. Fristoe riffs and solos, Bartz gives his snare the business, and Thompson offers completely necessary rumble, and the instruments can absolutely stand alone for the 1:49 they’re asked to, but the purpose of the track isn’t so much to have a hit single as to set up Salvador’s back half. You know, like the title says: “Intro.” Martin gets a rest.
As they opened strong with “El Dorado,” so too does Lo-Pan kick off the second half of Salvador in top form. “Chichen Itza” is every bit as strong as “Deciduous,” except that it’s Fristoe shining in the chorus with Martin, the two working in tandem to affect one of the album’s best builds. Both “Chichen Itza” and “Deciduous” are about three and a half minutes long, but they show what a well-written verse/chorus structure can accomplish, and though I’m loathe to choose because my opinion on it seems to change every time I hear the record, there’s a good chance they make Salvador’s middle movement its most powerful. These riffs. Seriously. These riffs. It’s been a while since I heard stoner rock that sounded fresh. Don’t get me wrong, I hear a lot of it that’s good, and a lot of it that’s decent but forgettable, but Lo-Pan have an energy to what they do that’s invigorating, like the band is saying, “Hey, look what I just came up with right now” as they’re playing through familiarly-hued Orange amps and using decades-established songwriting techniques. Even “Spartacus,” which finds its appeal in tempo changes and dime stops more than the hook itself, is presented with such force that it’s hard not to be taken in by it.
Those start-stops aside, “Spartacus” doesn’t have much different working for it than some of the other Salvador material, which makes the lonely fuzz guitar in the opening seconds of “Struck Match” (is that a touch of Tool’s “Pushit” I hear?) and the return to a slower pace that follows like some kind of spring-loaded pie out of a Looney Tunes cartoon that you probably should have seen coming but didn’t anyway. For what it’s worth, “Spartacus” doesn’t sound like filler, it’s just not any kind of departure or necessarily offering much Lo-Pan hasn’t already shown on other pieces. “Struck Match,” on the other hand, takes the underlying melancholy that showed up on “Bird of Prey” and makes it the focus of the entire song. Martin features during the second verse while Fristoe drops to quiet notes and ambient noises, and is every bit up to the task. The last 1:15 reinforces the mood while also adding to the energy, and it seems that even here, Lo-Pan can’t help but make a quality show of their songcraft, though “Struck Match” serves more purpose than just to show diversity or act as a comedown, since it leads so well into the more energetic “Generations,” which could just as easily have opened Salvador as been the second to last track on it.
That frantic immediacy of “El Dorado” and “Bleeding Out” does indeed show up again on “Generations,” maybe even more so, but placed where it is in the tracklisting, the song is absolutely a highlight (there’s that word again), with another landmark chorus and vibrancy running through it. Like a lot of what Salvador presents, it’s just what the moment calls for – a boost in adrenaline right when you were maybe brought down a notch in terms of energy (not quality) – and it sets up seven-minute closer “Solo” as though you had just put the record on. There’s no sense of fatigue. “Solo,” which rocks at a mid-pace until nearly two minutes in when it fades to an extended break during with Thompson keeps the rhythm while Bartz hits cymbal washes and Fristoe dives deep into the mix with some noise, is suitable to finish Salvador, and not just for the hugeness of the sound once Martin’s vocals lead everyone back into the song at 3:55. Fristoe’s more languid riffing and the general tidal pull of the rhythm lend a concluding aspect, and it’s hard to imagine anything coming past the hits and ring-outs that fade the track down except the silence that follows. Once again, just right for the moment.
Indeed, the same could be said about Salvador as a whole. In 2011, nearly 20 years removed from the beginnings of what’s commonly thought of as “modern stoner rock” (circa 1992-1994), a band like Lo-Pan comes along and not only shows that there’s life left in the form, but that it’s worth investigating what can be done with it after all this time. These songs are immaculate. If you’ve ever enjoyed riff rock, or whatever variation on the style you want to use, and you miss out on Salvador, you’ve really lost. I don’t know what higher praise I can give it than I already have, but if you’re still reading, you should know that as of now, this is my album to beat for this year and maybe beyond. The proverbial bar has been raised, and if they can keep up this level of performance and songwriting across their next few offerings, Lo-Pan could easily stand as one of the most important bands of their generation in the genre. Yes, they’re that good, and yes, you really, really need to hear this album.
- H.P. Taskmaster