Way before Rush were progressive rock darlings, helping to usher in the genre’s golden age, they released their first, self-titled album. Rush is much more a rock n’ roll affair, albeit one which includes all the hallmarks of Rush in nascent form. It’s comprised more of riffs and groove and heavily relies on Geddy Lee’s vocals as opposed to future albums. The self-titled album is often forgotten but there’s something about Lee’s voice over thick guitars that is very rare to find. Strangely enough, though, a band called Lo-Pan released an EP this year called In Tensions, which scratches that itch and then some, doubling down with Torche influences on the rest of the instruments.
Those high pitched, very specific vocals are housed above huge guitar and bass, punctuated powerful by momentous drums. This lends the “pop stoner” genre spearheaded by Torche a quite distinct vibe, channeling the best of it while playing around with what the sound can accomplish. In addition, the lyrics are tremendous, moving from subtle science fiction on opening track “Go West”, through lost love in the form of “Sink or Swim” and even politics on “Long Live the King”. Throughout the whole thing, the basic, powerful formula is maintained: simple riffs on the guitar amplified by sweet, enveloping tone back by an increasingly dynamic rhythm section. The vocals are the crowning glory granting, much like Rush, the varied frills and dynamics that would otherwise be missing in such a fuzzy release.
In Tensions is short—way too short. However, it’s a great start of an inquiry into a fantastic band with several releases already under their belt. From what I’ve heard on the albums, the variety presented by the vocals manages to hold water for the entire run-time—an impressive feat. However, there’s something about the EP format which lends the music even more strength, condensing its heavy hitting mannerisms in a very pleasing way. Whichever way you go, whether you settle on this EP or choose to explore further, Lo-Pan are a gust of force in what is otherwise a pretty stale genre. Pick it up for the Rush nostalgia, stay for the riffs.