Release: May 17, 2019
Formed in 2005 by veteran bassist Skot Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz, who were joined in 2007 by vocalist Jeff Martin, Lo-Pan has so far released four albums, and have established themselves as one of the most promising bands to hail from the American Midwest. And now the band returns with their fifth studio album, “Subtle”, the anticipated follow-up to the EP “In Tension”. This album was recorded at NYC’s Reservoir and was produced by James Brown (Foo Fighters, Ghost, NIN) and mastered by Ted Jensen (Alice in Chains, Guns N’ Roses, Mastodon). Following the release of the new album in May 17 via Aqualamb Records, Lo-Pan will embark on a summer tour, together with Crowbar and Quaker City Night Hawks, supporting Corrosion of Conformity.
Channeling powerful verses and strong hooks, “Subtle” merges sturm und drang heaviness with catchy AOR laden melody, which coupled with a dichotomic sound makes for a very high-energy and lively listening experience.
Bring me a war
A thousand miles
The law & the swarm
The sharp and energetic guitar playing coupled with Jeff Martin’s soaring and expressive vocals are the driving force of the music, while the thick bass lines and dynamic drumming lay a tight rhythmic foundation which gives the songs a certain groove. However, the album tilts towards the heavier and more aggressive end of the stoner rock spectrum, being anything but subtle.
The album starts off on a strong note with the “10 Days” which features distorted and somewhat reverbed guitars, and melodic vocals, setting a high bar for the rest of the album. Not losing any momentum the next track, the hard hitter “Savage Heart”, contains one of Martin’s best vocal performances on this album, as he veers between melodic singing and belting, especially around the chorus. “Ascension Day” has some sludgy guitar riffs and groovy basslines under the soaring vocals, this providing a nice dichotomy of melodic and heavy. The moody “Sage” tones things down a bit with a nice bass / vocal intro but soon picks up pace with distorted guitars that almost take over the whole song.
Slow-burner “Everything burns” has a doomier feel to it coming from the guitar melody, which works neatly with Martin’s powerful vocal delivery, while “Old news” brings the heat and ramps up the heaviness a few notches with intense drumming from Jesse Bartz and fierce guitars courtesy of Chris Thompson. Keeping the momentum going, “Bring me a war” is as harsh as it is edgy, with a somewhat warmer guitar tone and another on-point vocal delivery. Slowing things down a bit is the rockish ballad “A thousand miles” as well as the penultimate cut “Butcher’s bill”, with emotional, borderline melancholy delivery, and uplifting melodies, while, nestled between them, the brooding “Khan” brings a dose of darkness to the music. “The law & the swarm” is another hard hitting track, which boasts a sweet but short guitar solo from Chris Thompson and powerful drumming, closing the album on a high note.
Relentless and solid from start to finish, with well-crafted songs and top-notch performances, catchy riffs and melodic hooks, “Subtle” is an album that reminds the listener that rock music is very much alive and kicking. So be sure to catch these guys live on their upcoming tour with Corrosion of Conformity this summer, and pick this album up and give it a spin. Recommended.
Rating: 8.5 / 10
Jeff Martin – vocals
Chris Thompson – guitar
Skot Thompson – bass
Jesse Bartz – drums