Small Stone Records have always been a trusted partner. For so many years now the Small Stone logo has been, not just a badge of quality but an assurance that you’re going to be getting your hands on some heavy duty fuzzed up stoner rocking goodness. Just lately though, they’ve been cheating on us. Admittedly amazing releases by the likes of Black Sleep Of Kali, Luder and Blackwolfgoat have been the musical equivalents of late nights in the office, secret phone calls, lipstick on the collar…etc and have deviated from the tried and tested Small Stone formula. So it is with this latest offering from Lo-Pan, Small Stone have very much come home.
Originally released on the small indie, Nice Life Records but quickly sold out, this is Lo-Pan’s second album and has been given a judicious sprinkling of magic dust by Small Stone. Taking the original master tapes into Mad Oak Studios under the guidance of Benny Grotto, the band has administered a small amount of rerecording and a healthy dose of remixing and remastering to show why Lo-Pan deserve their place alongside the cream of the Small Stone roster.
Everything we have come to love and respect from the label is in place here. The riffs are bigger than Axl’s ego and the grooves will have you dry humping complete strangers in the street!!! Jeff Martin’s soaring vocals are clean yet edgy and treated with the merest hint of distortion to give the impression that the recording equipment is being pushed into submission. Song wise, “Dragline” grabs your hair and pulls you into the album with stomping hobnail boots kicking your ass the whole way. “Savage Henry” blends, fat rhythms, sexy grooves and some lysergic touches of psychedelia for good measure. Elsewhere “Kurtz” shows some of same touches that made early Soundgarden such and exciting proposition along with some of Kyuss’s rolling grooves. It has to be said that, with Martin’s voice, it is difficult to make wholesale comparisons to other bands. Influences to peer over the fence but the vocals have an identity that sets Lo-Pan aside from many of their peers. If pushed though, as I’ve already stated Soundgarden and Kyuss would be good starting points, particularly as “Callahan” and “Vega” both pull from the same offbeat rhythmic territory as the former band’s “Spoonman”, albeit with “Vega” introducing an injection of amped up fury to the mix.
Having never heard the original version of the album (prices for which I assume will dramatically increase in the wake of this release amongst the completists), I’ll take the label’s word for it that this is a vast improvement…it’s certainly impressive with plenty of guitar crunch on tap and a tangible warmth and depth throughout. Despite not being originally recorded at Mad Oak it now bristles with that studio’s trademark expansive fuzzed up, punchy tones.
With this release Lo-Pan show that they’ve always been a Small Stone band…it just took a while for the band and the label to realise it. The label’s faithful followers will lap this up and place it in the unholy pantheon alongside bands such as Roadsaw, Sasquatch and Gozu. Newcomers to Small Stone would do well to check this out as a starting point and stoner fans anywhere should be happy to load a bong with this as the soundtrack.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall