Review Summary: Amid struggles, Lo-Pan still delivers top notch material…
Lo-Pan have entered a winning streak ever since they released Sasquanaut
in 2009. The pummeling tunes full of grooves, tight riffs and cool vocals skyrocketed them above the multitude of average stoner bands rising every day. Anxiously waiting for a follow-up to the excellent Colossus
, I was a bit bummed initially to see In Tensions
is only an EP. Still, looking back, I rapidly understood why we received only 22 minutes of new music instead of a full length. The band suffered two major setbacks since we last heard from them: the first came in 2014 when they parted ways with long time guitarist, Brian Fristoe and last year, his replacement (Adrian Zambrano) too. Moreover, they left Small Stone Recordings in favor of Aqualamb, who handles the current work. Overall, it must’ve been a frustrating process, hence the title, yet amid struggles they didn’t fail to deliver top notch material.
Musically, In Tensions
continues down the path Colossus
took. Lo-Pan haven’t changed much since their inception, but worked a lot on their formula, soon excelling in the field. Thus, there’s a welcomed familiarity from the first second when they burst into ‘Go West’. Its intensity and tempo reminisces ‘Regulus’, one of their best songs to date. Luckily, they steer away through some tom-heavy drumming patterns during the verses and dirty guitar riffs, while Jeff Martin sings his heart out. He was pushed all the way up in front, paying off as he has one of the best voices in the genre. Moving on, ‘Sink or Swim’ is another catchy addition that boasts scorching rhythms occasionally breaking into more melodic parts for the chorus. The magic is augmented during these switches, since the instrumental is considerably harsher than the vocals, creating a really nice contrast throughout.
‘Long Live the King’ continues the string of robust cuts, sharing some of the heaviest grooves Lo-Pan have tracked so far. The constant onslaught of raucous guitars and fat bass lines are punctuated really well by the meticulous production, significantly relying on their power whilst remaining crystal clear. On the contrast, through ‘Pathfinder’ the guys have also made an effort to expand the record’s sonic palette a bit. The song starts slower, intertwining leads from both stringed instruments and straightforward drums, before Jeff joins in. Halfway, they switch to a faster tempo, leaving the singer to lead on until finishing off with solos and a crushing, but melodic coda. A perfect end to this ramming EP, the track shows there’s no sign of weakness, only more grooves for everybody. Although In Tensions
remains Zambrano’s sole contribution, this is not just a stop-gap between LPs, but a sweet listen that showcases the chemistry between him and the guys. Chris Thompson will have to prove himself as he follows in the footsteps of two strong guitarists.