Monday, July 4, 2011

Lo-Pan Paints Up Salvador

Jeff Martin of Lo-PanOhio-based hard rock band Lo-Pan likes to make their songs a little longer and their stories a little shorter. Almost everywhere you look, they brush off any story with "We formed. We play. The end."

There is a bit more to the story than that. Jeff Martin (vocals), Jesse Bartz (drums,) Skot Thompson (bass), and Brian Fristoe (guitar) formed about six years ago and produced two independent records before signing with Small Stone Records.

The second, Sasquanaut, originally recorded in 2008, was remixed and reissued in January (except the 10+ minute jam Wade Garrett, which was rerecorded).

Most of the material on the newer album released a few weeks ago was written over the course of three years; more than half of the songs were written while they were on the road. It's difficult to tell which are which. Their songwriting often starts with a jam session between Bartz and Thompson or Bartz and Fristoe. And then something magical happens.

Lo-Pan produces a more dynamic sound with Salvador.

The new album, Salvador (named after Salvador Dali), blends slow burn jams with heavy-handed rockers, sometimes imbued with thunderous guitars, psychedelic grooves, and old school metal. If the sound in general seems any bigger, attribute it to the production and mixing work of Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Boston.

"Benny is a master, man. He’s really, really good," Bartz recently told The Aquarian Weekly, before explaining how some fans miss the DIY dirt but are otherwise happy with the polish.

Truth be told, Lo-Pan is just as raw and dirty as ever — anytime you see them live. Here's a fan-made video of Chichen Itza to prove it.

Chichen Itza is one of several hypnotic rockers worth checking out on Salvador. The only difference is that the big man, Martin, who frequently sings behind instead of in front of the band, sounds even bigger, deeper, and harmonic in the studio.

Other tracks to check out include El Dorado (with some lines cut from El Dorado by Edgar Allan Poe), Bleeding Out, Bird of Prey, and Struck Match. Take or leave the rest, but know that most pay homage to their early beginnings as a band, which consisted of nothing more than "dirty rock, stale beer, and an unhealthy obsession with Big Trouble In Little China."

That also means every track showcases instrumentals as part of the arrangements, with sharp guitar riffs balanced by a dizzying, infectious bass. As for the songs, even the most cryptic lyrics connect emotionally. Martin has an amazing voice, even when it's only employed as another instrumental layer.

Lo-Pan's Salvador Hits A Master Stroke At 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Everything about the band is home grown and it's great to see they haven't lost their roots while stepping up with a label. It's equally great to see a big heavy rock band put in years of hard work to catch local buzz, occasionally play alongside bigger bands (Red Giant, Saviours, Red Fang, and Valkyrie), and then get a shot because someone took their sophomore album in to Small Stone Records and said someone better listen to it.

With two albums out, Salvador by Lo-Pan is priced better-than-right on iTunes. Salvador is also on Amazon and the CD can be found at Barnes & Noble. The band just completed a three-week East Coast tour and has another concert planned for Kentucky this August.
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