Review 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 having been taken under Small Stone Records' wings, they decided to trod more or less the same path with their new endeavor. This definitely cannot be regarded as a downside since "Salvador" happens to be a major improvement over their previous discs providing an ingeniously crafted collection of songs being equally ballsy and clever.
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.