By The Great Sun Jester
Lo Pan is, simply put, one of the finest bands working today. Any genre. Their first release from Aqualamb Records, is a five song EP named "In Tensions" and the first studio release from the Columbus, Ohio based four piece since 2014’s career defining full length "Colossus". The EP finds them in excellent musical health. This is a band capable of making even an abbreviated release like this carry the fruits of a much longer work – every song is packed with enough imaginative flair that it isn’t difficult imagining this release as some sort of glorified target practice for the next full length peak they intend to climb. The songwriting and musicianship with this band betters with each new outing and In Tensions will find widespread acceptance among their fan base while surely winning over many new followers.
“Go West” opens things at a full on burn. There’s a clipped, glowering intensity in the song’s primary riff, but Lo Pan knows just when to make the right changes for ratcheting up the track’s dramatic potential. Jeff Martin’s vocals have always nicely juxtaposed against Lo Pan’s riffing and the contrast is more striking than ever before as the guitar and bass go positively subterranean here. The song’s final section brings everything to a memorable close. If the opener sets the bar high for this EP, the second track “Sink or Swim” clears it with room to spare. Martin’s vocals are particularly effective here and it’s a testament to his talents as a singer that the vast riffing storm erupting around him never hampers his ability to emote and cut through the mix. This song has a much more directly personal edge than the first track and the flying stone wall conjured by guitarist Chris Thompson, drummer Jesse Bartz, and bassist Skot Thompson reinforces Martin’s impassioned delivery.
“Long Live the King” has a musical slant similar to the preceding song and quickly builds up quite a head of steam. The lyrical material isn’t quite as direct as it for “Sink or Swim”, but Martin still belts out the vocal with as much conviction. Lo Pan takes a more considered approach to the EP’s penultimate track “Alexis”. The song’s beginning has expansive guitar textures before the band launches into another slab of riff-propelled rock, but that melodic flavor briefly resurfaces at different points in the song. The suggestion of the personal the band brings to their songwriting is another factor distinguishing it from a lot of similar bands. There’s no overstatement in these songs, no wizards, demons, or supernatural powers. These are songs ripped from the pages of personal autobiography and they rage, steamroll, and reach out for the listener.
"In Tensions" concludes with the slightly progressive, psychedelized march of “Pathfinder”. The band explodes into occasional, recognizable flourishes, but much of the song defies what we’ve come to expect so far from this EP. The shifting riffs and tempos, the widened lyrical lens, and the extended length suggest that some of the intent behind the writing of this track was to create a solid closer. They have succeeded wildly by that measure alone. Lo Pan’s "In Tensions" points the way towards even brighter creative dawns and adds five more potential stunners to the band’s live show.
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