Why isn’t Lo-Pan the biggest stoner metal band on the planet? For the past decade, the Columbus, OH-based outfit has done nothing but release one banger after another, each one chock full of tasty riffs and arguably the best melodic vocals of any band out there, and their new EP In Tensions continues their remarkable winning streak.
Perhaps Lo-Pan is still flying under the radar, releasing albums on tiny indies while many of their more derivative and considerably less awesome peers end up with bigger deals and wider exposure, because they draw from a slightly less fashionable palate of influences than other bands of their ilk. There’s not a whole lot of Sabbath in their sound; instead, their songs combine the stomp-and-swagger of a band like Humble Pie with the more AOR-like tendencies of someone like Bad Company. The end result is upbeat, relentlessly catchy music that has a higher ratio of earworms-per-minute than anyone else going today.
On In Tensions, the band comes charging out of the gates with the slinky riffing, tom-heavy drumming, and huge vocal melody of “Go West,” which ranks right up there among the catchiest things they’ve ever written. The chorus riff in particular just swings like crazy, and the double-time coda is also a really nice touch. It’s followed by “Sink or Swim,” the shortest and probably heaviest track on the EP, which peppers its sweet stoner riffing with a dash of punk attitude. “Long Live the King” is a mid-tempo stomper with another killer chorus riff and massive vocal hook. “Alexis” is a slower track that’s all about the unconventional vocal melody. Frontman Jeff Martin has a set of pipes that remind me more than a little bit of Triumph’s Rik Emmett – they’re strong, melodic and soaring, to the point where he could be singing listings from the phone book and it would still be awesome. Closer “Pathfinder” finds the band at their AOR best, with another total earworm of a riff and vocal hooks to spare.
Simply put, In Tensions is 22 minutes of music that’s as close to perfection as it gets. One listen and you’ll have the riffs and melodies stuck in your head for weeks.