Lo-Pan Announce In Tensions EP Due in January; Video Teaser Playing

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers Lo-Pan have just announced a new limited EP, In Tensions, to be released in January via Aqualamb Records. These were the songs recorded during the relatively short but distinguished tenure of guitarist Adrian Lee Zambrano with the four-piece, during which they went to Europe for the first time and toured the US at a greater scale than they ever had before. The band, who were also recently announced as taking part in Maryland Doom Fest 2017 (info here), recruited new guitarist Chris Thompson back in July in time to head out on a summer tour with The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets, and since it’s Lo-Pan, one can only assume a bevvy of road activity is in the works for 2017, though I’ve yet to hear/see concrete details in that regard. Rest assured, they’ll be out there.

I was hoping these tracks would be released, and Aqualamb‘s method of limited-art-book/digital pressings seems like a cool way to do something special for them, kind of celebrating the one-off that they are while still acknowledging this as a crucial time for the band moving forward from their fourth full-length, Colossus (review here), which came out in 2014 on Small Stone. Looking forward to hearing the songs, and as soon as humanly possible, I’m going to make a beeline right for “Pathfinder,” because you bet your ass I know what’s good for me.

Just off the PR wire:

lo-pan-in-tensions-700

LO-PAN: Limited-Edition In Tensions EP Due January 13th, 2017 On Aqualamb Records; Video Teaser Posted

LO-PAN’s fifth release, In Tensions, is a new five-song EP that sees the seasoned Columbus, Ohio unit continuing their blistering trajectory, building on the infectious, riff-filled grooves of their 2014 full-length, Colossus.

Their first release on Brooklyn’s Aqualamb Records (Husbandry, Black Black Black, Godmaker et al), In Tensions also marks the next stage in the band’s ever-evolving direction – anchored by the lead single “Go West,” an optimistic, sun-kissed, open highway anthem. Regarding the song, singer Jeff Martin elaborates, “It’s about setting out to accomplish a goal and then having that goal change along the way. And ultimately realizing the new goal was better than what you wanted in the first place.” A perfect rallying cry for action in uncertain times, Martin continues, “it’s also about getting out and doing something…. So keep moving forward. Keeping progressing. Keep evolving.”

LO-PAN has indeed been moving forward, both figuratively and literally. In Tensions is equal parts modern sludge metal and ’90s-influenced alt rock – synthesized to perfection. Jeff Martin has never sounded more soulful, confident, and passionate on record. The riffs courtesy of the now former guitarist Adrian Lee Zambrano compliment the tribal influenced drums of Jesse Bartz and grounding bass lines of Skot Thompson, pummeling the listener on each repeated listen.

Recorded in Columbus, Ohio by Joe Viers, with mixings duties split between Jonathan Nunez (Torche, Shitstorm) and Ryan Haft (Wrong, Capsule) in Miami, and mastered in Chicago by Carl Saff (Big Business, Helms Alee, Russian Circles), In Tensions is a sonic masterpiece created across multiple time zones – the fruit of relationships forged through the band’s unending dedication to the life of touring road dogs.

The band also hit a major touring milestone in 2016, having logged over 250,000 miles on their original van since 2005 – crossing the country countless times over on headlining tours and supporting the likes of Torche, High On Fire, Weedeater, KENmode, Whores, Fu Manchu, Atomic Bitchwax, Black Cobra, and Bongzilla. Not surprisingly, they’ve become one of the most ferocious live acts in American heavy rock as a result.

And with In Tensions, they show no sign of slowing down. A full US tour in support of In Tensions is expected this Winter along with a European tour in the Spring of 2017.

LO-PAN’s In Tensions will be released on 10-inch vinyl limited to 500 copies and accompanied by a one-hundred-page book featuring artwork by Chris Smith of Grey Aria Design as well LO-PAN tour diaries, flyers, and a complete collection lyrics from LO-PAN’s previous releases: Sasquanaut, Salvador, and Colossus. Preorders are currently available at THIS LOCATION.

In Tensions Track Listing:
1. Go West
2. Sink Or Swim
3. Long Live The King
4. Alexis
5. Pathfinder

Inspired by the lack of album art in the age of invisible music, Brooklyn-based record label Aqualamb publishes one-hundred+ page printed books of artwork and writings as physical accompaniments to its releases. Essentially, each album’s art and liner notes (traditionally confined to an LP gatefold, a CD booklet, or the screen of some music-playing device) are reconfigured into an expanded book form. Each book also includes a download code for the music.

LO-PAN is:
Jeff Martin – vocals
Skot Thompson – bass
Jesse Bartz – drums
Chris Thompson – guitar
Additional Musician:
Adrian Lee Zambrano – guitars on In Tensions

http://www.lopandemic.com
http://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
http://www.aqualamb.org
http://www.aqualamb.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/aqualambrecords

Lo-Pan, In Tensions EP trailer

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Maryland Doom Fest 2017: Set Times Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

So I guess we’re pretty much ready to roll on Maryland Doom Fest 2017, right? We’ve had the lineup announced, we’ve got the schedule now. Might be another couple weeks getting t-shirts together — and hoodies; should’ve gotten a hoodie this year, which admittedly is something that occurs to one way less at the end of June than in mid-November — but then I’d say we’re about good to go. No need to wait until next summer on it. Let’s do this thing.

Maybe that’s just me being excited at the prospect of that Friday night lineup, which seems particularly strong front to back — not to take away from any of the other days, but you know I dig me some Lo-Pan — but either way, if Maryland Doom Fest‘s now-three-year tenure has been marked by anything it’s a lack of bullshit. A fervent get-down-to-business-and-kick-as-doing-it mentality. It’s perhaps the most “Maryland doom” aspect to the whole event. Maryland Doom Fest 2017 is clearly no different. Here we are more than half a year from the event kicking off and I know what time I need to be there on Thursday to watch Spillage start the pre-party. This is information I’m glad to have.

If your calendar isn’t marked yet, you might want to get on that:

maryland-doom-fest-2017-poster

The Maryland Doom Fest 2017

June 23, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Cafe 611
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701

ROSTER SLOT TIMES

**PRE FEST PARTY THURS JUNE 22
• Valkyrie 1150 – 1250
• Beastmaker 1055 – 1140
• Pilgrim 1000 – 1045
• Borracho 915 – 950
• Weed Is Weed 830 – 905
• Sweet Heat 745 – 820
• Spillage 700 -735

FRIDAY JUNE 23
• Captain Beyond 1240 – 150
• Lo-Pan 1140 – 1230
• Apostle of Solitude 1050 – 1130
• Earthride 1000 – 1040
• Beelzefuzz 910 – 950
• Wretch 820 – 900
• Demon Eye 735 –810
• Brimstone Coven 650 – 725
• Black Manta 605 – 640
• Sierra 515 – 555

SATURDAY JUNE 24
• The Skull 1245 – 150
• Bang! 1140 – 1235
• Wo Fat 1050 – 1130
• The Well 1000 – 1040
• The Watchers 910 – 950
• Hollow Leg 825 – 900
• Iron Man 740 – 815
• Dark Music Theory 655 – 730
• War Injun 610 – 645
• Thonian Horde 525 – 600
• Witches of God 440 – 515
• Black Tar Prophet 355 – 430
• Conclave 305 – 345

SUNDAY JUNE 25
• Headliner 1140 – 1245
• The Atomic Bitchwax 1045 -1130
• Serpents of Secrecy 955 – 1035
• Lightning Born 905 – 945
• Lifetime Shitlist 815 – 855
• Akris 730 – 805
• Burn Thee Insects 645 – 720
• Faith In Jane 600 – 635
• Cavern 515 – 550
• Old Blood 430 – 505
• Horehound 345 – 420

TICKET SALES START JAN 1st !!

https://www.facebook.com/The-maryland-DOOM-Fest-815331421863100/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1794418777500202/
http://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

Earthride, Live at Jason McCash Benefit, 2014

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First Video Surfaces of Lo-Pan with New Guitarist Chris Thompson

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

lo-pan

Participating in The Blackout Cookout has become something of a tradition for Lo-Pan. I don’t know if they play every year at the Kent, Ohio-based fest put together by Kenny Royer, also of The Ravenna Arsenal, but they’ve done it multiple times over and have always spoken highly of the experience. This year was The Blackout Cookout 7, and Lo-Pan, from Columbus, OH, headlined — topping a bill that also included Sofa King KillerThe Ravenna ArsenalBridesmaidHorseburner and others. It looked like a pretty good show. It always does.

There’s some added intrigue to seeing live footage of Lo-Pan from The Blackout Cookout 7 in that, held on Aug. 13, it was also their first show with guitarist Chris Thompson, who joined the band last month. They’ve since embarked on a tour alongside The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets, put together by Tone Deaf, that will lead them to Psycho Las Vegas this weekend, where they join the lineup of everyone and their mother at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Not a minor introduction for a new member of the group. Probably closer to trial by fire, particularly when you factor in the desert heat.

But Thompson, who’s joined in Lo-Pan by bassist Scott Thompson (no relation), drummer Jesse Bartz and vocalist Jeff Martin, has clearly held his own so far, as you can see in the clip below for “Pathfinder.” The footage comes courtesy of Pittsburgh native and all-around top-notch individual Randy Blood, and if you’ve seen Lo-Pan in the last year, you probably recall the song. Last time I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure was in March and though it was my first time seeing or hearing “Pathfinder,” the immediate impression from it was that it’s one of the best things Lo-Pan has ever written, and I think that holds up here as well.

And it looks like Thompson is gonna be just fine on guitar, in case you were worried.

Enjoy the “Pathfinder” clip below, followed by Lo-Pan‘s remaining live dates:

Lo-Pan, “Pathfinder” live at The Blackout Cookout 7, Aug. 13, 2016

Lo-Pan with The Atomic Bitchwax & Dirty Streets:
8/24/2016 Grizzly Hall – Austin, TX
8/25/2016 Rail Club – Ft. Worth, TX
8/26/2016 Ned’s Bar – Albuquerque, NM
8/27/2016 Flycatcher – Tucson, AZ
8/28/2016 Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV @ Psycho Las Vegas

Lo-Pan website

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

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Lo-Pan Tour with The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets Launches Tomorrow Night

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

lo-pan

Just over a month after announcing the addition of guitarist Chris Thompson to their lineup in place of Adrian Zambrano, Ohio heavy rockers Lo-Pan will head out on an inaugural tour with the new lineup. I’ve already seen video of them performing at this year’s Blackout Cookout in Kent, OH, where they’re a regular fixture, and the feel was right on. I’d expect them to get even tighter by the time this run is over, and a particularly noteworthy stop-off at Psycho Las Vegas should make for a pretty solid first-tour highlight for Thompson. “Welcome aboard, by the way, we’re playing with Alice Cooper this weekend.” Not too shabby.

Lo-Pan will be out with The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets. I told you I’d post these dates again:

lo-pan-tour-poster

LO-PAN: Ohio Riff Wielders To Kick Off Tour With The Atomic Bitchwax This Week; Band To Appear At Psycho Las Vegas

Ohio riff wielders LO-PAN will take to the streets again for a short run of live dates later this week supporting The Atomic Bitchwax on a portion of their tour through August 27th. Additional support will be provided by Dirty Streets. Set to commence this Friday, August 19th in Charlotte, North Carolina, LO-PAN’s latest trek includes a performance at Psycho Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino alongside the likes of Alice Cooper, Blue Öyster Cult, Electric Wizard, Sleep and many others. It also marks the four-piece’s first tour with new guitarist Chris Thompson.

Comments drummer Jesse Bartz, “The train don’t stop! New guitarist Chris Thompson has us practicing some older stuff too. We will be playing a wide variety of material from our previous recordings as well as some new material. Really stoked to be able to tour with The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets. Both are top notch not to be missed rock bands. We cannot wait to see some of our favorite bands of all time at Psycho Vegas!”

LO-PAN w/ The Atomic Bitchwax, Dirty Streets:
8/19/2016 The Milestone – Charlotte, NC
8/20/2016 The Tavern – Hattiesburg, MS
8/21/2016 Siberia – New Orleans, LA
8/22/2016 Limelight – San Antonio, TX
8/23/2016 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
8/24/2016 Grizzly Hall – Austin, TX
8/25/2016 Rail Club – Ft. Worth, TX
8/26/2016 Ned’s Bar – Albuquerque, NM
8/27/2016 Flycatcher – Tucson, AZ
8/28/2016 Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV @ Psycho Vegas

LO-PAN continues to tour in support of their critically lauded Colossus full-length, released via Small Stone. Produced and engineered by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Rosetta, East Of The Wall et al) at his own Translator Audio in Brooklyn, New York and named for an ancient statue of the Greek titan-god of the sun, Helios, the record continues to raise the eyebrows of fans and media globally.

http://www.lopandemic.com
http://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

Lo-Pan, Colossus (2014)

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The Atomic Bitchwax, Lo-Pan & The Dirty Streets Announce Coast-to-Coast Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

A couple months ago, while out on a run with The Obsessed and Karma to BurnTone Deaf is killing it with the package tours this year — bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik of The Atomic Bitchwax sustained an injury to his arm that forced the band to cancel about half the dates. Sierra filled in, but still kind of a bummer for the stalwart NJ trio, whose 2015 Tee Pee Records album, Gravitron (review here), was among the year’s finest.

No doubt they’d get back out, and this time they’ll be headlining a coast-to-coast stint with Ohio’s Lo-Pan and Memphis blues rockers The Dirty Streets. For Lo-Pan, it will mark the four-piece’s first tour with new guitarist Chris Thompson, who was just announced as having joined the band earlier this week. They’re on the tour from Aug. 19 through Aug. 27 only, it looks like, so presumably the next night will serve as their stop at Psycho Las Vegas. The Dirty Streets, on the other hand, have an off-night as the Bitchwax and Lo-Pan roll into Tucson on Aug. 27, so I guess that’s when they’ll be playing the Vegas megafestival.

In any case, glad to see The Atomic Bitchwax heading off again and continuing to keep excellent company. Dates were posted by the band:

the atomic bitchwax lo pan dirty streets tour-700

USA!!
Arm is healed up so let’s try this again!!

THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (ALL DATES)
W/ LO PAN (8/19-9/27) and THE DIRTY STREETS (8/19-9/10 excluding 8/27)
08/19/2016 Charlotte NC The Milestone w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/20/2016 Hattiesburg MS The Tavern w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/21/2016 New Orleans LA Siberia w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/22/2016 San Antonio TX Limelight w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/23/2016 Houston TX White Oak Music Hall w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/24/2016 Austin TX Grizzly Hall w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/25/2016 Ft Worth TX Rail Club w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/26/2016 Albuquerque NM Ned’s Bar w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets
08/27/2016 Tucson AZ Flycatcher w/ Lo-Pan
08/28/2016 San Diego CA Soda Bar w/ The Dirty Streets
08/29/2016 Los Angeles CA Viper Room w/ The Dirty Streets
08/30/2016 San Francisco CA Elbo Room w/ The Dirty Streets
08/31/2016 Portland OR Dante’s w/ The Dirty Streets
09/01/2016 Vancouver BC Biltmore w/ The Dirty Streets
09/02/2016 Seattle WA El Corazon w/ The Dirty Streets
09/03/2016 Bellingham WA Shakedown w/ The Dirty Streets
09/06/2016 Minneapolis MN Grumpy’s w/ The Dirty Streets
09/07/2016 Chicago IL Double Door w/ The Dirty Streets
09/08/2016 Cleveland OH Grog Shop w/ The Dirty Streets
09/09/2016 Philadelphia PA Kung Fu Necktie w/ The Dirty Streets
09/10/2016 Brooklyn NY Black Bear w/ The Dirty Streets

https://www.facebook.com/The-Atomic-Bitchwax-86002001659/
https://www.facebook.com/lopandemic/
https://www.facebook.com/thedirtystreets
http://tonedeaftouring.com/

The Atomic Bitchwax, Live in Toulouse, France

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Lo-Pan Welcome New Guitarist Chris Thompson

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been under two months since Ohio heavy rockers Lo-Pan announced the departure of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, who was added to the band late in 2014 following the release of their fourth album, Colossus (review here), via Small Stone. They’ve now posted word that Chris Thompson has joined in Zambrano‘s stead, and though they’ve said they’re already writing new songs, they’re still playing it close to the chest on the status of the tracks they recorded when Zambrano was still in the group, among them the absolutely stellar “Pathfinder,” which they brought to stages earlier this year on their tour with Bongzilla (review here).

The timing is noteworthy because Lo-Pan, who it seems are never off the road for long, are confirmed to play Psycho Las Vegas next month. I don’t know how much of a factor that has been for their making a decision on a quick turnaround, but it’s a chance to be part of arguably the best heavy-festival lineup that’s ever been put together in the US, and I think if you were going to find a guitarist in time for any gig, that would probably be the one. I doubt Lo-Pan would hire a guitarist who isn’t at this point, but if Thompson is up for touring, it seems likely the four-piece will announce more dates in the weeks or months to come for before the end of the year and likely into 2017, when a new album — whenever it’s recorded and whoever might be playing on it — would be released.

That’s all speculation, of course. And speculation on top of speculation.

In any case, good luck to Thompson — who also plays in Sleepers Awake and shares his last name with bassist Scott Thompson; I thought perhaps there was some relation, but the band confirmed not — and of course to the rest of Lo-Pan as well, the lineup rounded out by drummer Jesse Bartz and vocalist Jeff Martin. Hope to see the new incarnation soon.

Here’s there announcement and the ceremonial photo:

lo-pan

Please help us welcome our new guitarist Chris Thompson. Chris is a very talented guy and we are lucky to have him. Lo-Pan is back in action and we are already working on new material. Lots of good stuff coming soon including a new release and, as always, more tour dates. Stay tuned.

https://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
https://twitter.com/LoPandemic614
https://www.facebook.com/BrujasdelSol
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/colossus

Lo-Pan, Colossus (2014)

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Guitarist Adrian Zambrano Leaves Lo-Pan

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ohio heavy rockers Lo-Pan have announced the departure of guitarist Adrian Zambrano from their lineup. Zambrano joined the Columbus-based four-piece late in 2014 to fill the role initially occupied by Brian Fristoe, and accompanied the band on their inaugural European tour last year as well as US dates earlier in 2016 with Black Cobra, Bongzilla and Kings Destroy (review here).

His leaving is a genuine surprise. Lo-Pan have most if not all of a new album recorded as a follow-up to their fourth outing, 2014’s Colossus (review here), and Zambrano‘s departure, which the band notes is amicable, leaves it to question what’s to become of those songs and those recordings of them in particular. Of course, the bigger and more immediate issue is who’s going to take over that spot in the band — riffs aren’t exactly a small part of what they do — but the future is yet uncertain or at least unannounced for what would have been and may still be his studio debut with Lo-Pan, now also a swansong for this incarnation of their lineup.

Zambrano, who also plays in Brujas del Sol, excelled in the guitarist position while he had it. I was fortunate enough to see Lo-Pan with him twice and both times he added a presence and energy alongside drummer Jesse Bartz, bassist Scott Thompson and vocalist Jeff Martin that only added to the force of their stage delivery. Should probably go without saying, but good luck to him and good luck to the band in finding somebody to handle guitar. When and if I hear more about their next release, I’ll let you know.

Lo-Pan are currently slated to play Psycho Las Vegas in August. Here’s the statement from the band:

lo-pan

Our guitarist Adrian Zambrano has decided he needs to walk away from Lo-Pan at this time to focus on some other important parts of life. We would like to emphasize that this is an amicable split and we wish him all the best. We are currently on the hunt for a new guitarist and we hope to see you all again as soon as possible. Stay tuned for announcements and new music.

https://www.facebook.com/lopandemic/
http://lopandemic.com/

Lo-Pan, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, April 1, 2016

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Live Review: Bongzilla, Black Cobra, Kings Destroy and Lo-Pan in Somerville, MA, 04.02.16

Posted in Reviews on April 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

bongzilla show 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The bill pushed the envelope of ridiculous. As part of their ongoing reunion, Wisconsin sludgers Bongzilla have been on tour since late February with nomadic thrashers Black Cobra and only-slightly-less-nomadic heavy rockers Lo-Pan. They met up with New York’s Kings Destroy — freshly back from their Australian run with Radio Moscow — at SXSW last month, and have continued along the Eastern Seaboard since. Friday night was a sold-out show at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, and Saturday was ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, Massachusetts, for a show that was put on by Grayskull Booking and presented in part by this site.

It was my first time at ONCE Ballroom, but I’d like to extend personal gratitude to whoever decided to leave the lights on while the bands played. The P.A. was formidable, and it was a night that would push its limits, and the layout like the kind of place you might rent for a wedding reception. That’s not a dig on it — actually the room was quite nice — it’s just the first thing that came to my oh-so-domestic mind. There was a dance floor in front of the stage and carpeted floor space all around, bar to the side and another bar upstairs in kind of a lounge with a pool table Addams Family pinball machine and so on. To the best of my knowledge, they haven’t been doing shows there long, which explains how the carpet wasn’t completely disgusting or otherwise gone, but for the most part, the evening ran smoothly.

Here’s how it went down:

Lo-Pan

lo-pan 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I don’t know how many shows the Ohio four-piece have done with Black Cobra over the years, and in fact I doubt it’s a figure even they could quote at this point, but to understate it, I’d say they’re well past the range of “several.” It had been nearly a full 12 months since last time I saw them, which was at Roadburn 2015 (review here). To be blunt, they were missed. I was particularly interested to see a year later how guitarist Adrian Zambrano had continued to fit in the band after joining late in 2014 the lineup with vocalist Jeff Martin, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz, who was positioned, as ever, at the front of the stage. Most of what they played was new, and in terms of where they’re at in progressing from the high-impact delivery of their 2014 fourth album, Colossus (review here), they seemed not at all to have taken a step back, but to have integrated Zambrano‘s energy into their own. And the guitarist had plenty to integrate, stepping up to lead songs with riffs or space out just a bit in two quieter cuts. They reportedly have some new recordings in the can, which I’m dying to hear, and the last song of their set, “Pathfinder,” might be the best thing I’ve ever heard them play. I’d never heard the song before but was taken in completely by its flow, by Martin‘s out-of-this-world vocals, by Bartz‘s signature crashes, the swing in Thompson‘s bass and the dynamic volume switches in Zambrano‘s guitar. They’ve been on the road for a month, so I figured they’d be tight, but Lo-Pan served voluminous reminder of their place among the US’ finest heavy rock acts. Keeping my fingers crossed it’s not another year until I see them again.

Kings Destroy

kings destroy 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Another case of been-too-long. Kings Destroy are very nearly a year out from the release of their self-titled third full-length (review here), and the last time I caught them was at the release show (review here) for it, which, yeah, is too damn long for my preferences. They played a six-song set, and the change in vibe from Lo-Pan was immediate. Each of the bands on this tour offers something different from the others, but I hadn’t really considered how smoothly the acts — especially the first three, but Bongzilla as well — would flow between them, Lo-Pan starting off with a charged-fuzz boot to the ass, Kings Destroy turning that more aggressive, Black Cobra hitting with unmatched intensity, and finally, Bongzilla finishing out with a mass of tone. For being disparate in their sound, Kings Destroy followed Lo-Pan well. They had a fill-in bassist in Mike Moebius (also producer for Pilgrim, Kings Destroy, The Munsens and others) holding down Aaron Bumpus‘ usual spot next to drummer Rob Sefcik and guitarist Chris Skowronski, and while Skowronski didn’t run across the stage to kick fellow guitarist Carl Porcaro, so I can’t call it the most raucous Kings Destroy set I’ve ever seen, they showed themselves plainly to be ready to move forward from the last record. This tour hasn’t been quite back to back with the aforementioned Australian stint, but close enough to it that when it’s over I wouldn’t be surprised if they hunkered down for a while and set to finishing material for their fourth LP. Whatever their plans, it was great to bang my head again to “Mr. O” and “Smokey Robinson,” to groove on the catchy creeper vibes of “The Mountie” and to hear vocalist Steve Murphy‘s changed cadence in the hook of “Blood of Recompense,” which finished out. I’m hardly impartial on the subject, but I’ve really missed these guys.

Black Cobra

black cobra 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What can you do when Black Cobra take the stage other than bow to their utter supremacy? I don’t know. The San Fran (now) twosome of guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafa Martinez hit the 15-year mark in 2016, a decade since their first album, Bestial, was released, and their assault has only gotten more and more vicious. Their newly-issued Season of Mist debut, Imperium Simulacra (review here), made its primary impression — or at least a complementary one to their omnipresent fury — in an expansion of their capacity for atmosphere, in Landrian‘s willingness to drone out in contrast to the thrashing riffery that has become the band’s signature, and I was pleased to find them bring that sensibility to the stage as well. I’m not going to take away from the joy of watching Martinez blast the hell out of an all-out cut like “Obsolete,” slamming his floor tom in place of a double-kick, or the unmitigated tension of “Challenger Deep,” but to hear them hit the brakes even momentarily to ride out a rolling groove or to have Landrian create an excruciating soundscape of drone before the next wave of the attack was launched made the experience of watching them that much richer. They are a live band and always have been, and anyone who has heard their records but not seen them only has half the story, but the fact that the growth that was so clearly signaled on the record showed up so plainly on stage as well is emblematic of their all-around progression. I won’t say it’s a question of maturity, since I’d argue Black Cobra hit that stride with 2011’s Invernal, but perhaps of how they’re putting that maturity to use, deepening their approach. It’s a thrill to watch Black Cobra break the rules they’ve set for themselves, and one hopes that the explorations of Imperium Simulacra are a sign of things to come.

Bongzilla

bongzilla 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been wracking my brains for the last couple weeks trying to remember if I’d seen Bongzilla before and I’ve finally decided that the answer is no, because if I had caught them at some point during their initial run, which ended after their 2005 album, Amerijuanican, on Relapse, I’d remember it. The ultra-weedian four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Muleboy, guitarist Spanky, bassist Cooter Brown and drummer Magma stacked their amps high — everything was high — and were loud enough in their early going that, I think in their third song, the power cut out. Not like they blew an amp, like they blew a fuse. It was an unexpected break in the set, during which the band encouraged everyone to go out and smoke weed — because weed — but seemed somehow fitting for the band’s legacy of over-the-top, crusty-as-hell sludge that the room simply couldn’t take it. I learned later they’d plugged a bunch of their amps into a single surge protector, and I guess that’d do it if that’s how it happened, but they got everything back up and running sooner or later and the crowd was right back into the set as they had been all along, the reefer-obsessed anti-hits rolling out in a slow-motion barrage of consuming tonal density. On a couple levels, one knew what to expect going into the show — Bongzilla have never been in danger of being subtle — but those expectations were delivered on thoroughly, and with the response they’ve gotten all along on this tour, and the one before it, and the one before that, I had to wonder how long it might be before they embark on a new record to follow-up on the series of reissues that Relapse and Hydro-Phonic have done over the past years. Wouldn’t want to make any hasty predictions or anything, but I bet whenever they do come out with a fifth record, it’ll have a song or two about weed on it. No complaints. In life, you gotta follow where your passion takes you.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading, and once again, thanks to Grayskull Booking for having me as a presenter on this show. Check out their Thee Facebooks for more dates coming up.

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