We all have our sweet spot. That trigger point where drums, guitar, bass and vocals come together to strike that hidden part of you, the place you hide from others, the synapse that only fires when the perfect combination hits, and thank the Metal Gods for that because when it hits me I jump up and start dancing and shaking my head like an utter fool.
The point being: Lo-Pan and their new EP In Tensions.
Calling Lo-Pan a stoner band is a disservice to the amalgam of influences the band successfully merges together: the soulful alt rock of the 90s with a thundering doom/sludge sound that’s equal parts immediate and timeless. That mix has been in place since 2007’s Sasquanaut (when I first heard them) and has tightened and evolved up to 2014’s Colossus, where the band nailed the balance and crafted tight, powerful songs that inject themselves directly into my nucleus accumbens. So much of that is from the outstanding vocal delivery of Jeff Martin, who carries each tune with the searing passion of Maynard James Keenan, whose Tool is another obvious touchstone for the band. Three years on those songs still have the same impact for me, and I’m happy to say the new songs on the In Tensions EP not only deliver more of the same, but take on more of the “thunder pop” elements that elevate bands like Torche and merge them into an already potent musical mix.
“Who says you can’t go home?” opener “Go West” asks, and honestly I don’t know why I would want to go home after hearing this. Lo-Pan master the heavy + tight sound that compresses each song into a sonic block of badass rock, and it’s a testament to how in sync the band – Shot Thompson on bass, Adrian Lee Zambrano (since replaced by Chris Thompson) on guitar and Jesse Bartz on drums – are. This is what being “in the pocket” means, and on tracks like “Go West” and “Sink or Swim” everything hits like a colossal (sorry) wave on the listener. The comparisons to classic Torche are only accentuated when you look behind the boards: mixing duties were handled by Jonathan Nunez who worked with that band and Ryan Haft, who has worked with Wrong and Capsule. Everything is firing on all cylinders, but I’d be a fool if I didn’t say the highlight for me was — again — the stellar vocal performance from Martin. His delivery on every track ignites the rest of the song, and when he’s at his best on sprawling epics like closer “Pathfinder” you can’t help but sing along, even if you don’t know any of the lyrics and you’re relegated to nonsense syllables that are only vaguely in tune with the track.
It may only be a tantalizing six tracks, but after so long a wait since the last Lo-Pan album, I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on. In Tensions sits proudly as a reminder of the ability for that perfect combination of frequencies to insinuate itself at a cellular level in your very being, even if you don’t know all the words yet.