Posted in Whathaveyou on July 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Admittedly, it’s kind of cheap for me to post this press release, since I wrote it, but what the hell, it’s Lo-Pan. The fuzzsome foursome are headed out on the road again, this time hitting the Midwest with some killer bands — when, oh when, will Bloodcow put out a new album? — and they’ll be bringing the new vinyl edition of Salvador with them.
To be fair, it did come in on the PR wire. Here goes:
Ohio rockers Lo-Pan have unveiled their latest slew of tour dates in support of their SmallStoneRecords debut, Salvador. After scores of shows across the country with the likes of Truckfighters, DixieWitch, Gypsyhawk and FightAmp, Lo-Pan’s “Let Freedom Ding” tour – allegedly named for the many bells that mysteriously occupy the dashboard of the band’s van – will find the outfit bringing their fuzzed-out soul rock bliss to the Midwest alongside heavy hitters like Chapstick, Bloodcow and DroidsAttack.
In addition, SmallStone’s 180-gram vinyl pressing of Salvador is available now in white and red/blue clear swirl. Whatever flavor you choose, it’s delicious, and available now at smallstone.com/store. The band will also have copies with them on the road, and they take credit cards. Seriously.
Lo-Pan‘s “Let Freedom Ding” Tour:
08/17 IowaCity, IA The Mill w/ Snow Demon
08/18 Omaha, NE The Waiting Room w/ Bloodcow
08/19 Denver, CO Tennyson’s Tap w/ Low Gravity, Black Lamb
08/20 Salt Lake City, UT Burt’s Tiki Lounge w/ Muckraker, Dwellers, Top Dead Celebrity
08/23 Fargo, ND The Aquarium
08/24 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock Social Club w/ Droids Attack
08/25 Lacross, WI JB’s Speakeasy w/ Droids Attack
08/26 Madison, WI Club Inferno w/ Droids Attack
08/27 Chicago, IL Red Line Tap – w/ HeavingMass, Droids Attack
08/28 Detroit, MI Small’s w/ Chapstick, Knife
Posted in Features on June 30th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
At this point, between the review, the interview, live review, tour posts (there’s a couple), and sundry other rants, I’m not sure how many other ways there are for me to say it. I fucking love this album. Ohio rockers Lo-Pan‘s third full-length, Salvador, is the best record I’ve heard in the first half of this year, and listening to it now to write this post, I’m just as excited to hear it as I was the first time I did.
The only difference? Now I know the songs. I can follow Brian Fristoe‘s riffs, Skot Thompson and Jesse Bartz‘s bass and drums. I can ape singing along (having neither the range nor the capability to actually keep up with him) to Jeff Martin‘s vocals. These tracks, from “El Dorado” on down through “Seed,” “Chichen Itza,” and “Struck Match,” are amped-up stoner rock classics, and even when Lo-Pan hit the brakes and deliver moodier pieces like “Bird of Prey” or “Solo,” they seem to lose none of the immediacy or directness in the material.
The thing about it, really, is you can just hear the time these guys have put in on the road. It bleeds through the songs — all of the songs — in how tight they are, how together, and of all the albums I’ve heard so far into 2011, Salvador is the one I feel I’m most likely to keep with me long after this year is over. It’s the one record I can put on at any time, regardless of mood or any external factors, and enjoy. If that’s not a number one album, I don’t know what is.
Whatever Lo-Pan does from here, between Salvador and 2009′s Sasquanaut — the reissue of which was their first release on Small Stone — they have two excellent albums under their belt (the preceding self-titled isn’t half bad either, but I think even the band will tell you they hit a different level with the second and third offerings), and have emerged as one of this generation’s most essential American heavy rock bands. All you have to do is hear it and you know.
Posted in Features on May 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It happens rarely these days that there’s an album I can’t put down, but since I first heard the tracks that would become Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut, Salvador, that’s basically been the case. Of all the records I’ve managed to hear this year (and as we border on June, it’s been a few), Salvador has been a constant — anticipated since the issue of the remixed version of Sasquanaut, its predecessor and no letdown whatsoever from that album’s level of excellence. With Salvador, the Columbus, Ohio, four-piece thrust themselves into the upper echelon of next-gen American stoner rock.
The songs on Salvador — named for the artist Dali, as referenced in the Alexander von Wieding album art — are immediate and affecting. Tracks like “Bleeding Out,” “Deciduous,” “Bird of Prey” and “Struck Match” stay with you even after a first listen, and only grow in appeal with time. The soulfully delivered vocals of Jeff Martin make epics out of what in most hands would become mundane, and the riffs of guitarist Brian Fristoe fuzz out in markedly stoner fashion but have a distinguished sense about them, as though taking the best of what made Fu Manchu‘s earlier work so vibrant and unabashed and giving it a self-aware touch of progress. I could listen to the bridge of “Seed” (just before the solo after three minutes) every day for breakfast and still come out of it wanting more.
If you’ve heard the record, you know the part I’m talking about, where Jesse “JBartz” Bartz (not much of a mystery where the nickname came from) cut to half-time under Fristoe‘s intricate riffing, bassist Skot Thompson‘s running lines and Martin‘s formidable sass. It’s just one highlight moment among many on Salvador, and they come on in forms as varied and diverse as the music itself, which maintains its energy despite tempo and any sonic shift — seven-minute closer “Solo” being no comedown from “Generations” before it. With a vinyl release impending, there’s little doubt that Salvador will emerge from 2011 among the year’s best albums.
Lo-Pan have already taken to the road to support Salvador, which saw its official CD release this past Tuesday, May 24 (you can find a live review here), and it was mostly touring that was covered in my telephonular conversation with Bartz. In a scene where most everyone has day jobs and most acts rarely get on the road with the kind of ravenousness Lo-Pan have, it seemed the thing to talk about. Our chat was brief, at least by the standards of some of the features around here, but Bartz offered plenty of insight on Lo-Pan‘s writing and touring ethic, plans for European touring and much more.
The complete Q&A transcription is after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I fucking love Philadelphia. Of the pitifully few major urban centers I’ve seen in this world, Philly is the one where I’ve always wanted to stay. Nonetheless, as Delaware trio ChromeLord took the stage last night at The M-Room and I flipped my camera’s “on” switch and realized the memory card was missing, I really could have used one of NYC‘s ubiquitous Duane Reades. I jumped into my car around the corner and phone navigated to a Drug Fair and bought not one, but two memory cards, I guess under the theory that I might want a second… in case… the first… didn’t work? I don’t really know. I was panicking by then.
But I got back to The M-Room, which is the kind of bar I dream of owning — townie joint on one side with good-looking food, small rock venue on the other side of a decently thick wall — in time to catch ChromeLord‘s last couple songs. They were stoner in the truest sense of the word, and by that I mean I think they were stoned. Some kinks to work out there, but the riffs were cool and dreamy in a half-speed Nebula or Dead Meadow kind of way, and the band had handmade stickers to give out, so they earned no shortage of points on charm. I wished I’d been able to see more, but as they’re friends with Clamfight (Andy and Sean came down for their set), I’m relatively sure our paths will cross again.
The reason I drove the two-plus hours to Philadelphia last night (and the two hours home) was to see Lo-Pan and Backwoods Payback play together. Somehow I’d got it into my head that the days of these two acts doing shows like this are numbered. Lo-Pan‘s album (Salvador) is incredible, and the rough versions I’ve heard of Backwoods Payback‘s forthcoming Small Stone debut kick considerable ass, and I’m not sure if it was thinking they’d be playing bigger places, or not touring together anymore or what, but when these shows were announced, it occurred to me that whatever happens with these two bands from here on out, it’ll never quite be like this again, and that years from now, I wanted the memory of seeing them at this time, together, enough to justify the trip.
They were clearly comfortable sharing the bill with each other. They’ve done tours and shows together before, and have the kind of camaraderie one might expect from two bands parking their vans outside the same places so often. Lo-Pan went on second. It was easily the tightest I’ve ever seen them play, and at this point I’ve seen them a few times (at least once with Backwoods Payback, come to think of it), but the chance to catch new material from Salvador wasn’t something I was about to miss. It was a short set, but “Chichen Itza” and “Bird of Prey” were highlights, along with “Kurtz” and “Dragline” from the Sasquanaut record, but even more, it was just refreshing to see a band so clearly firing on all the proverbial cylinders.
Lo-Pan‘s extensive touring has started to pay off. With bassist SkotThompson, guitarist Brian Fristoe and drummer J.Bartz out front and singer Jeff Martin behind, it’s easy to think of them as two separate entities — the music and the vocals — but even in the small M-Room, everything meshed together excellently, and I was that much gladder for having driven to see it. I could have dealt with a few more songs, but I guess the porn on which the set list was scribbled could only hold so many titles. Maybe next time.
Time was getting on as Backwoods Payback started setting up their gear. I bought a book from frontman Mike Cummings before they started, and told myself I’d just stay for a couple songs, snap some pictures, then split, but I wound up there for the whole set and regretted not a minute of it. Like Lo-Pan, they’re really just getting to where they want to be in terms of their sound, but the interplay between bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Steve Curtiss was right on, and the guitars of Cummings and Rylan Caspar set a burly tone of riffs and grooves for the former to lay his soulful vocals on. True to every time I’ve seen them, they closed with “Mickey Morandini,” in which Cummings reminded the crowd once again — who didn’t seem to have forgotten, since they were singing along — that he’s a motherfucker. Good times were had.
I split out almost immediately after Backwoods Payback‘s set to begin the ride back north, which put me back in my river valley just a couple minutes before 2AM. Lo-Pan and Backwoods Payback are in Long Island tonight with John Wilkes Booth and Borgo Pass, which makes me more than a little jealous of all parties involved, but the tour rolls on. If they’re coming through your neck of the woods, either together on this run or separately, go, because what you’ll find at the show is some of the strongest American stoner rock being made right now. It’s exciting. Seriously.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 16th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Recent kickass additions to the Small Stone roster, Backwoods Payback and Lo-Pan — no strangers to playing shows together — have announced a tour that will take both bands down to SXSW in Austin, Texas, next month. If you’ve yet to catch either band live, do so. End of argument.
The PR wire has dates:
Pennsylvania stoner/doom rockers Backwoods Payback are pleased to announced a 17-date US tour next month with labelmates Lo-Pan. The loudness will begin March 9 in Baltimore, Maryland, and will include two appearances as part of this year’s SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas. The band will be touring in support of their Small Stone Recordings debut, set for release later this spring
Comments guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings of the new record and upcoming dates: “The new, as yet untitled, record is dark and ugly, but smooth in all the right places. I think live is where these songs are going to hit the hardest. We’ve been doing this for long enough that each stop on a tour isn’t just a show anymore. It’s a full-blown party; a gathering of friends old and new. This tour should be no different, save for the fact that now we are flying the Small Stone flag, and are stoked to be doing so!”
Backwoods Payback Tour 2011 w/ Lo-Pan
03/09 Golden West Café Baltimore, MD
03/10 Krug’s Place Frederick, MD
03/11 Slim’s Raleigh, NC
03/12 Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge Atlanta, GA
03/13 The Nick Birmingham, AL
03/14 Siberia New Orleans, LA
03/15 The Ten Eleven San Antonio, TX
03/17 The Conservatory Oklahoma City, OK w/ Tombs, Castevet
03/18 Headhunter’s (back patio) Austin, TX [SXSW date]
03/20 Headhunter’s Austin, TX [SXSW date]
03/20 Rudyard’s Houston, TX
03/21 The Hi Tone Memphis, TN
03/22 Fubar St. Louis, MO
03/23 The Melody Inn Indianapolis, IN
03/24 Reggie’s Chicago, IL
03/25 Corktown Tavern Detroit, MI
03/26 South Park Tavern Dayton, OH
03/27 Smiling Moose Pittsburgh, PA
Posted in Reviews on February 15th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
For nearly seven years, my measuring stick for Small Stone debuts has been the first, self-titled Sasquatch album, and each new band that’s come along on the label (there have been plenty) since then, I’ve said, “Well, okay, but is it as good as the Sasquatch?” Listening to Lo-Pan’s Salvador – which, admittedly, is their third album following a self-titled and the excellent Sasquanaut which Small Stone re-released late last year – I might have to revise my comparison point. I was fortunate enough to hear rough mixes of Salvador back in December, and even as rough as those tracks were compared to the finished product I’m reviewing now, it was clear that the Columbus, Ohio, band, the label, and anyone who would seek it out to listen, had something formidable on their hands. I don’t want to get lost in hyperbole or overestimate the appeal of the record, but Lo-Pan’s Salvador has all the makings of a classic in the genre.
The single-guitar four-piece present 11 tracks in just under 46 minutes, and nearly each one of them is perfectly memorable (I’m not counting “Intro,” though even the riff to that is catchy), varied in its approach and masterfully written. The guitars of Brian Fristoe are unrepentantly fuzzed out, and his riffs are heavy rock of the highest order, and Jeff Martin’s soulful, wonderfully melodic and inventive vocals cut through the thickness just right, followed by Skot Thompson’s running bass and the center-stage drums of J. Bartz. Having seen them live on more than one occasion, Lo-Pan is one of those bands where each element involved in the making of the songs just works so well, and on Salvador, not only are those elements working, but they’re working together. You can listen to any part of any song on this record and say, “That’s killer,” or you can listen to how the parts interact with each other and say the same thing. It comes down to this: if you’re not coming out of Salvador glad to have heard it, it’s your own fault.
Lo-Pan open uptempo with the duo of “El Dorado” and “Bleeding Out,” the two cuts together totaling a little over six minutes. “El Dorado” is the snap in your face to wake you up, and with “Bleeding Out,” the pattern is established; thick riffs, infectious choruses, soaring, confident vocals, tap-worthy snare. Both tracks stuff a surprising amount of groove into faster, hurried packages, which undercuts any rushed feeling that might otherwise take away from the material, and the five-minute “Seed” – the first of several Salvador high points; which is saying something considering the bar set here – brings the pace more to ground. Bartz underscores the verses with seamless tom runs while Martin’s vocals set up the chorus, and it seems almost like the song is split in two, as around the three-minute mark, Fristoe moves up a few frets and shows some excellent finger-work (Thompson not missing a beat in the process and giving one of the album’s best bass performances holding down the rhythm to complement a guitar solo). At 3:09, Bartz cuts to half-time on the drums, and it’s one of those “shiver up the spine” moments. Not to be missed.
“Bird of Prey” fades in on a quiet interlude – a moment to catch your breath listening. At 6:34, it’s shorter only than the closer, “Solo,” and a good show of diversity from Lo-Pan, who have up till this point showed only their latter two gears. Of course there’s a build, and the song gets more active than its subdued intro, but there’s still a change in vibe to something darker and more contemplative that “Bird of Prey” signifies, and I think what’s best about it is that it’s still essentially a rock song. The band is working within their stated framework and still managing to evoke a different atmosphere. They didn’t have to rely on any sonic tricks or radical changes; they just wrote a song in another mood. Doesn’t sound like much of a shift, but it’s really hard to do. Fristoe takes another ripping solo toward the end, and I like that when he does, he’s not backed by a second rhythm guitar track that wouldn’t be there in a live situation. Salvador is unquestionably a clean-sounding production – Benny Grotto at Mad Oak being Small Stone’s go-to man at this point – but there was clearly an emphasis on maintaining a natural, live feel as well, and that comes across just about anywhere you want to hear it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Because they’re awesome, and because it’s not every band bold enough to tour in the Wintertime, even if they are heading to paradises both south and west. Okay, so really it’s more of a late-Fall tour, running from the middle of this month into December, but hey man, it’s cold in Ohio, Indianapolis and Chicago. It still counts. Here are the dates from the PR wire:
Small Stone Records announces Lo-Pan Winter tour and release of remixed and remastered album, Sasquanaut, for Jan. 25, 2011.
Lo-Pan tour itinerary:
11/17 Skully’s Music Diner Columbus, OH w/ Priestess, NAAM
11/18 Quenchers Saloon Chicago, IL w/ Imperial Battlesnake
11/19 Vollrath Indianapolis, IN w/ Devil to Pay, Bulletwolf, Devils if Belegrade
11/20 TBA Louisville, KY
11/21 Firebird Saint Louis, MO
11/22 Conservatory Oklahoma City, OK
11/23 Diablos Lubbock, TX
11/24 Kosmos Albuquerque, NM w/ Leeches of Lore, AoK Suicide Forest
11/26 Boomers Las Vegas, NV
11/27 LaBrie’s Glendale, CA
11/28 Ruby Room San Diego, CA w/ Ride the Sun
11/29 Rouge Bar Scottsdale, AZ
12/01 Trophy’s Austin, TX
12/02 Cavern Dallas, TX
12/03 Mia’s Pub Shreveport, LA w/ Massivus, Wormrider
12/04 TBA Memphis, TN
12/05 Little Hamilton Collective Nashville, TN
Posted in Reviews on October 21st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Small Stone’s first release of 2011 — “Baby New Year,” if you will — is a reworking of Ohio rockers Lo-Pan’s much-revered 2009 second offering, Sasquanaut. What was one of the best riff-rock releases of its original year of issue is bound to stand up also to whatever the rest of 2011 brings, as the album has been completely remixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Massachusetts and remastered by Chris Goosman. I never really thought of the fidelity of the original Sasquanaut as a problem, but hearing this new version — which has the exact same tracklist in the exact same order — there really is a palpable difference, most notably in the guitar of Brian Fristoe.
Where Fristoe was somewhat held back in the mix of the original Sasquanaut, Grotto brings him front and center on the Small Stone version, still allowing Jeff Martin’s soulful vocals to cut through, but definitely beefing up the tone and giving cuts like “Kurtz” and “Dragline” a feel much closer to what Lo-Pan sounds like live than they had before. The same holds true for the bass of Skot Thompson, which is fuller and more natural sounding, and while J. Bartz’s drum sounds were a big part of what made Sasquanaut so killer in the first place, they too have been given a working over, to their benefit. There’s more separation in the instruments all around, and as the groove “Vega” is maintained, there’s no way it was going to come out a loss for anyone who, like me, already dug the album before.
Posted in Reviews on July 26th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
It goes without saying that this show was at Ace of Clubs. Nowhere else in Manhattan has the gumption to put on a gig like this on a Saturday night. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be nearly as good without the cornbread upstairs, so there you go.
In thinking about writing this review, I looked up the last time I saw Devil to Pay at Ace of Clubs, and wow, I must have been in a shit mood that day. Tried to remember what would have had my panties all up my butt, but can’t think of any lasting traumas from November. As ever, I’m sure it was something trivial and there was nothing I could do about it. That’s usually what does it.
This time around, Devil to Pay sounded pretty killer. They’re kind of right in the heavy rock middle ground; not quite just stoner, not quite just doom, not entirely Southern but every now and then belting out a guitar lick that’d make Pepper Keenan smile. Some of their material is frustrating in that, standing there in front of the stage, I want the four-piece to really kick into it, bust out a balls-heavy groove and just ride it for five or six minutes, but that’s not their thing. The Indianapolis outfit is more focused on structure, on streamlined songwriting, and since they’re good at it, I’m not about to hold that against them. They had a good crowd for their set and everyone, myself included, was much pleased at the rock that ensued. I’d love to hear an album from them with a really vibrant, raw production. Take away some of the class from what they do, dirty it up a bit, and see how it comes out.
Lo-Pan, who followed immediately, are fast becoming one of my favorite bands. I’ve seen them three times now in the last four months (once in Michigan, twice at Ace of Clubs), and with every set they’ve delivered solid heavy American stoner rock, unabashed in its fuzzy glory, killer in its rhythms and topped with soulful vocals. They’re the real deal, and I get the feeling if all goes well, their next album might just be the best Small Stone Records debut since Sasquatch (though, admittedly, Lo-Pan have an advantage in this since it wouldn’t actually be their first album). I recorded video of one of their songs — a new one, I think — which you can view below.
I don’t know why I didn’t buy a Lo-Pan shirt last time I saw them, but needless to say, I rectified the oversight at Ace of Clubs.
The last band of the evening’s total four was local metal outfit Ikillya, who organized the show. Why a band so outwardly metal would want to play with stoner acts is beyond me, but although they were the odd men out on the bill — maybe they like it that way; it certainly has its appeal — they gave an admirable showing. There’s a lot of performance in what they do. They even have a banner to play in front of. But they back that performance with a level of metallic tightness that I’m just not used to seeing anymore. There are metalcore elements, but they’re more like a crunchier Shadows Fall than a Killswitch Engage, if you understand the difference. If you don’t, I’m sure you’ll survive. Either way, their sound might not have been in line with what else was happening that night, but their energy and dynamism would have made them stand out no matter who was on the bill, and yes, I do mean that as a compliment.
It was a good night. I saw some good friends, some good bands, and didn’t even get embarrassingly trashed doing it. I’ll be back at Ace of Clubs on August 7 to catch Earthride, Valkyrie, Alkahest and several others I can’t recall at the moment, so expect to hear more about how much ass the venue kicks. Devil to Pay and Lo-Pan are still touring. Check out the rest of the dates here.
Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Calling the citywide hippie commune known to outsiders as Columbus, Ohio, home, retro-alterna-psych-folk rockers The Main Street Gospel make their Tee Pee Records debut with the casually ominous Love Will Have Her Revenge. The trio take notes from Neil Young (“Getting Through”) and The Black Keys (“I Won’t be Stayin’”), but occasionally let guitarist/vocalist Barry Dean (ex-Brian Jonestown Massacre) go off on a singer-songwriter tangent (“Truly (Hymn),” “Give Your Love Away”) that pulls back from the full-band aesthetic. This interrupts the flow of the album, but also gives some ground to the material, which after a song like the spacey, bass-led “Ready to Shine,” isn’t such a terrible idea.
Although “Ready to Shine,” on which bassist Ryan “Tito” Ida does just that, is among the highlights of Love Will Have Her Revenge, so perhaps The Main Street Gospel would be better off tipping over the edge of the acid folk abyss. It’s hard to say, and in fact, that statement could be extrapolated to apply more or less to the whole album. The first time I listened to it, I barely made it through, found myself skipping tracks later in the record and saying, “Okay, I got it, you like reverb. Next.” On subsequent hearings, though, Love Will Have Her Revenge, with its subtle shifts from quiet to “loud” and back, its subdued movements and airiness, had me hooked solid for the duration. As far as listening recommendations, I’ll say The Main Street Gospel are better suited to stillness than motion. Love Will Have Her Revenge is not the album you put on speeding down the highway, but perhaps the one you put on once you’ve reached your destination and require decompression from the frustrations of traffic, life, etc.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
…To be perfectly frank, I can’t decide where I’m at with this thing. By all accounts, the inaugural Scion Rock Fest was a blast last year in Atlanta, and Columbus, where it’s being held this year, is a substantially shorter drive. There are a couple CD stores there I’d like to check out, and with YOB and Shrinebuilder on the show, I know I’d at least get my money’s worth — especially since the entry is free.
Not only that, but arguing in favor of my attendance is that it’s my spring break and I wouldn’t even have to worry about the reading/writing I should be doing for school (that comes later in the week, like Monday). And even the bigger, heavier acts like Hate Eternal or Cannibal Corpse, they’re certainly cool by me. I know I’ve dropped hints here before, but I’m a big fan of well done death metal, and though I’ve seen both of those bands and most of the others on the bill in whom I’d be interested in seeing, it might be a cool mix to catch them together in one sitting.
On the other hand is the whole Scion thing. Not even so much the corporate sponsorship, but the fact that they put their name as the first word in it. It was never Cheetos Emissions from the Monolith or Honda Stoner Hands of Doom. Even SXSW, which actually has plenty, shows a little decorum about their rampant name-selling (at least until you get there). So what’s a boy to do?
Well, I know I’m not flying to Austin this year, and it’s looking more and more like Roadburn isn’t going to happen either, despite my wishes to the contrary. If they do another Planet Caravan in Asheville, I could be down for that, but that’s later in the summer, and honestly, I could stand to get the hell out of the valley for a day or two, even if most of that time is spent on Rt. 80. The debate rages on, and I can’t imagine they’re finished adding bands to the Scion Rock Fest, so we’ll see how it all plays out. Needless to say, if I do end up making the trip, I’ll let you know.
Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
There must have been something in the accompanying press release that turned me off Columbus, OH’s Struck by Lightning initially, though I can’t remember what. Somehow their Translation Loss debut, Serpents, wound up at the very bottom of my to-do pile and I’m only getting to it now. Though the artwork had me thinking Converge for some reason and wondering if they’d even be appropriate for this site, once I actually popped the disc in and gave it its fair shake, discovery trumped assumption and the four-piece proved to not only have some of that hardcore vibe, but also a good deal of the new-school gangly-note prog à la earlier Mastodon or, you know, everyone else who bit off them over the last decade.
I’m holding off putting Struck by Lightning in that category, however, mostly because the focus on Serpents is so much less on noodling and so much more on jagged-glass heavy abrasion. There are definitely forces at work from the metallic realms, as on “The Watchful Eye,” but the band avoids sounding too much like anyone in particular, and more importantly, is in no way a metalcore cliché. That’s paramount. This is not chugga-chugga breakdown metal, and since I’ve had to listen to it a couple times now for the purpose of this review, I’m increasingly glad about that.
Melody comes on some of the tracks but not all, and guitarist/vocalist Gregory Lahm seems comfortable in either situation. Lahm is formerly of Mouth of the Architect, but nearly all traces of that band’s post-metal style are gone from Struck by Lightning. The punkish “Supercell” sees to that, though the later, wonderfully-named droning interlude “Collection of Teeth” could just as easily fit in one genre as another. That it’s followed by the upbeat, high energy swinging punches of “False Hope” makes all the difference.
Posted in Reviews on May 1st, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
They may look like cartoons — and more power to them for that; at least their press photos don’t consist of the band standing in front of a brick wall with their arms crossed — but the dudely brand of beer swilling, C.O.C.-style semi-Southern stoner rock that Columbus, Ohio‘s Robot Lords of Tokyo are unfolding with their self-released sophomore album, Whiskey, Blood & Napalm, is very, very real. The creative duo of Rick Ritzler (guitar/drums) and Paul Jones (vocals/guitar) is joined by Beau Vanbibber on rhythm guitar and backing vocals and Joe Viers on bass and backing vocals, as well as a host of Midwestern lead guitarists spread throughout the album. But despite the lineup being a bit jumbled, Ritzler and Jones manage to pull off the record sounding coherent and professional.
Very professional, actually. The production is crisp and for a self-produced affair, remarkably clean. There are a host of modern Southbound influences, from Down to Dixie Witch on “Larger than Life,” and Robot Lords of Tokyo manage to shake up their sound by adding the occasional Shadows Fall meets Pro-Pain growl vocally, but the crux of Whiskey, Blood & Napalm is geared toward accomplished, riff-based stoner metal. While it’s not the most groundbreaking brand of it in the world, one can hardly hold their inspiration against them, since they pull off the sound well and bring their own twist to it. Seriously, there’s only so much you can do at this point. There’s a lot of bands out there who sound like Deliverance and Wiseblood.