Finding a fresh stoner rock album in the present era is as rare as a hen’s tooth. There are good and bad albums, there are stoner rock albums with good riffage, which is as you might know a core of every good stoner-fied album. But even with good riff-work these albums are lacking for something and you could spend hours bashing your head against the wall to find out what is it that’s missing. Stop bashing for a moment and put your attention right here.
Smallstone Records – my next stop. I received several downloadable copies of their recent roster additions and I may say that I am quite thrilled. For starters, I’ve choosen Lo-Pan’s latest achievement called Salvador. And what an album this is, my dear people. Salvador is the third recording of these Columbus, Ohio based rockers whom I had an opportunity to meet via their second album Sasquanaut, which was a great record, but what they have done here leaves that album miles and miles away. This one has the potential to become a classic in the subgenre.
What makes Salvador distinct from the overloaded ocean of stoner rock albums is the fact that the band’s formula of mixing strong riffs and melody succeeded and as a result we got 11 tracks in 46 minutes. These eleven pieces are extremely memorable, masterfully structured and well planned. With a thin line between stoner and mainstream rocking on moments, Lo-Pan is to be enjoyed by wide audience. Brian Fristoe’s frenzy solo guitar work leading a whole family of majestic riffs is the strongest factor that builds up Salvador. But, guitars alone are not the only amazing thing that makes up these soundwaves. Jeff Martin on vocals gives a singing lesson here, showcasing the melodiousness and aggression simultaneosly and doing it all in a very innovative way. Let’s not forget the rhythm section: Skot Thompson (bass) and J. Bartz (drums) deliver a fine portion of hi-class rhytmics, and together these two elements form a strong relationship that lasts from the very first tracks of the record to its closing beats. It doesn’t matter if you play this album from the beginning or from its middle or backward or in a shuffle mode – you will find yourself with mouth open wide no matter what.
The album starts off with El Dorado, and the band is determined to show straight from the beginning the energy, power and the hitting force that makes up Salvador.
The winning formula keeps on with Bleeding Out – monstrously heavy riffs coming in order, catchable refrains, never lacking for melody. All of this is emphasized further through the rest of the album. There is not too much polarization in the album’s structure, all these songs are of the same quality and it really looks like they are composed in one breath.
Seed flies in with an opening riff which is able to rise the dead, making a turnout towards a stoner-y direction.
Birds of Prey fades in as an interlude with a very calm opening, but the things start to rock’n'roll soon after this dull beginning. I think it wouldn’t be much to tell anything about guitar work here, that Fristoe dude shows a masterfully work throughout the album – nuff said.
Decidious trully sounds more progressive than some of the twenty-minutes-long-tortures neo-prog bands produce only because “we-need-such-an-epic-piece-just-because-we-are-prog” situation. So much is said in these three and a half minutes, thus we may conclude that Salvador satisfies also the appetite of a middle-aged prog
Intro marks the entrance of the second half of the album and with its 1:48 it is a strong bridge, giving Martin’s vocals a break.
Chichen Itza is a diametrally symmetric to Decidious, emphasizing in that way a mirror-role for Intro. At the same time, as Chichen Itza starts off the second half of the album, there is an obvious parallel set between this piece and the album’s opener El Dorado. In general, this album may be considered as having a deep relation with
mathematics, especially geometry. You can easily make parallels between songs or thread out axes through their structures – proving that way the theorems Lo-Pan writes. Having related this album with mathematical theories, I’m coming to the point to name this record simply as “The Riffing Manifesto”. Seriously, in a time when riffs
have become totally monotonous due to repetition, Salvador appears as a smartly-arranged encyclopedia.
Spartacus keeps up the good work and is a sort of a rhythmic exercise with many breakups which lead into another frantically fuzzed out guitar solo.
The return to the ground with a slower Struck Match forms a doom ring around Salvador.
The songship floats further with Generations, which comes across as pretty energetic after the previous diverse piece. A feeling that shakes me after hearing this song is that the album enters as a potential candidate for those extreme sports TV channels, showing all those hellish exhibitions.
And finally the closing and the lengthiest song – Solo doesn’t show even a bit of fatigue because of the album’s end. On the contrary, it’s like the album just started, which is one of the advantages of Salvador.
These eleven pieces spread out like an infection, taking you completely and no matter of how much you listen to this record, it’s certainly not enough to satisfy your daily needs. Salvador is the opposite of boredom. Inspiring work, always interesting to hear, never predictable – isn’t it what you need when it comes to innovation in music? Modern stoner rock, that’s what you may expect to get out from this release. With bands such Lo-Pan, we don’t have to fear about the future of the genre. The renaissance happened once, but why not again?
Bird of Prey