Review Summary: Lo-Pan remain in strong form on their fourth album, performing heavy rock that's at once infectious and distinctly ambitious.Colossus
is a perfect name for a sludge metal album as it evokes the obsession with the massive that's rightfully associated with the genre. The ultra-heavy fourth album of Columbus luminaries Lo-Pan certainly lives up to its title, bludgeoning the listener with a cavalcade of gargantuan riffs from the ground up. This is the same formula that made their previous release Salvador
so engrossing. The might of sludge metal is imbued with progressive tendencies and memorable melodies. In consequence, the quartet tread a fine line between the technicality of Tool and the sheer riff-power of Swedish stoner rock heavyweights Dozer, while succumbing to both bands' penchant for infectious motifs.
The playing on Colossus
is intuitive and totally indicative of musicians who have worked together for a long period of time. Guitarist Brian Fristoe finds a comfortable middle ground between danceable bluesy riffs and towering grooves, whereas the syncopated bass lines of Scott Thompson and precise, impeccably timed drumming of J.Bartz provide intricate, yet sturdy foundations. However, it's Jeff Martin's booming vocals that lend the record its singularity. There's immense power in his voice, but also space for vulnerability that's rather uncommon for the genre driven by machismo. Even though some of his vocal lines may be plenty complex, he has a strong command of melody, creating an exceptional dynamic between brutality and hooks.
While Lo-Pan hardly ever venture beyond their comfort zone here, the songwriting is so potent that it makes up for the album's lack of reinvention. The quartet still needlessly prolong their songs at times. Case in point, opener 'Regulus' would work much better if it was one minute shorter. However, most tracks succeed because they are so ingeniously written. 'Marathon Man' is fittingly the longest cut on here: its length is justified since the outfit churn out captivating transitions and Martin delivers not one, but two poignant refrains. 'Vox' hints at Torche with its heavenly guitar licks and smooth vocal harmonies while still retaining stomping riffage. The brooding 'Eastern Seas' is the most doom-oriented track on the album, yet it manages to throw a curve with Tool-echoing labyrinthine progressions in the end. The record finishes triumphantly with 'The Duke' which may be Lo-Pan's finest tune to date. Bolstered by Martin's flexible vocals and Fristoe's dazzling solo, the song sounds at once supremely dynamic and inspirational, showcasing the quartet reaching their full potential.
is not a massive leap from what the group released before, nor was such vaulting progression needed. Instead, the record provides a concise snapshot of what Lo-Pan are about
: no-frills heavy rock that glitters with powerful melodies. Still the quartet manage to outweigh their peers, performing music that's distinctly ambitious and complex. They sound refreshing on the grounds of top-notch musicianship and fluid shifts through the gears, but ultimately it's Jeff Martin's commanding vocal performance that turns Colossus
into an essential heavy rock album.