By Ryan Falla
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio; Lo-Pan aims to continue their charge to the forefront of the stoner/desert metal conversation with the release of the EP ‘In Tensions’. Fans of Lo-Pan will remember their last album, ‘Colossus’, as a melodically driven album powered by the vocal presence of Jeff Martin. The band continues the tradition of melodic and vocally focused stoner rock with the release of ‘In Tensions’, bringing a more traditional sound to the genre than one might expect.
The first track ‘Go West’ opens with a pounding drum march powering a fuzzed out guitar with the intention of supporting a melodically driven and vocally lead sound, which works well for the sound the band has crafted. Despite their strengths being founded in the melodic formula they’ve set up for themselves, this leads to the unfortunate effect of the instrumentation competing for attention against the vocals. From the opening track it becomes apparent the vocals lead into a far brighter tone than what one would expect to hear from the stoner rock genre, leading to a slight disconnect from the riffage that wants to beat you under the burning desert sun and the vocal work that is consistently pushing a melodic tone.
The guitar work of Chris Thompson is notably impressive throughout the EP, the tracks ‘Sink or Swim’ and ‘Long Live the King’ being shining examples of what this band can achieve when the synergy between the guitar and vocals is undeniable. While the EP happens to open on a middle-of-the-road track, the second track ‘Sink or Swim’ comes in with an aggressive and relentless energy that forces itself into your ears, continuing into the meat of the EP that falls towards laid-back approach to song-writing. The lack of a typical heavy lower end one finds in the stoner rock category leads to the realization that the dirty, grinding tones of stoner-rock is not as consistently present as it should be with the EP ‘In Tensions’.
What sticks most with this album is the feeling that the music isn’t taking you anywhere beyond what Lo-Pan presents to you in the intro of the opening track ‘Go West’. While Lo-Pan brings a solid approach to songwriting, they don’t take the opportunity to stretch your mind as a listener and tug at your attention, and when they finally do go outside the confines of the solid but unspectacular formula they’ve established it’s the last track of the EP. This is most disappointing because when they decide to stretch themselves what does come out is extremely satisfying; doing what the rest of the album struggled to do and inspire energy into the listener.
If Lo-Pan wrote the rest of ‘In Tensions’ with the same intensity as the outro track ‘Pathfinders’, it would be a different body of work, especially when it comes around to the outro riff of the EP. It’s such a shame that the album ends right when Lo-Pan decides to hit you with a curveball that takes ‘In Tensions’ to a completely unexpected plateau; sustained only for 20 seconds before the EP comes to a close.
While Lo-Pan brings a solid effort to the table with the release of the EP In Tensions, they struggle to elevate your trip beyond what they present to you right out of the gate; keeping on a pace that’s too steady for its own good, often leaving you feeling unengaged. Even with the impressive work by Lo-Pan spotted throughout ‘In Tensions’ it ends up feeling like the band doesn’t take the opportunity to challenge their music, not hitting the jets until the race is at its end. Opting to keep it steady and solid over taking serious chances by creating a musical structure they confine themselves to; Lo-Pan delivers a solid EP with ‘In Tensions’ that ultimately does not take the chances to grip and inspire you in any meaningful way.
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Record Label: Aqualamb
Release Date: January 13th 2017
1. Go West
2. Sink or Swim
3. Long Live the King