Slash & Burn
When Slash & Burn, the debut EP from San Diego's Psychothermia, arrived at my doorstep there was something about the band's name that poked at my ever-shrinking memory. A little research confirmed that Psychothermia was the name of an album that I reviewed in 2008 from another California outfit called Canobliss. As it turns out, Psychothermia (the band) is essentially Canobliss minus a disgruntled former guitarist. Legal issues forced the band to rebrand themselves, but much more than just the name has changed since I last heard from these guys. Whereas Psychothermia (the album) was an intricate, thrashy affair, Slash & Burn firmly establishes itself in the modern rock arena. The intricacies remain, but they are delivered in a much more measured and accessible way.
Slash & Burn is comprised of mid-tempo songs that are constructed of approachable riff patterns, a well-defined sense of rhythm, and compelling vocals. Guitarist Jon Russo's simmering contributions occasionally boil over with a grand solo, such as the tastefully extensive effort on "Danger Sign", but most often he spices up his riffs with warm atmospheres or modern rock pinches. On songs such as "All The Diamonds" and the title track, Russo joins with Chenzo Vidalez (who does a fine job emulating the style and theatrics of Robert Trujillo) to add an almost overwhelmingly downtuned, bass-heavy heft to the band's sound. Even with a generous amount of riff variation, Slash & Burn remains a very melodic effort that would fit comfortably on rock radio.
Such conformity, for lack of a better word, is also Psychothermia's Achilles' heel. Frontman Johan Maldonado possesses a familiar vocal style which he often uses to flirt with imitation, such as his David Draiman-like cadence on "Crazy X" and his spot-on impression of Rage Against The Machine's Zack de la Rocha on "The Fight". In fact, Maldonado sounded so much like RATM's iconic frontman that I was searching through the band's catalog to see if Psychothermia had slipped a cover track onto the EP. For what it's worth, Maldonado (and Psychothermia) would be better served by continuing to refine his own style, which is perfectly suited to the band's target sound. The fact remains, though, that these are just minor scuffs on an otherwise well-polished debut release.
I like how Psychothermia has evolved from where I last heard them. The progressive touches are still present, though now expressed through interesting songwriting and accessible melodies. The overall pacing has slowed, but Slash & Burn is still an EP that rock fans will want to get their hands on.
|3||Slash & Burn||5:14|
|5||All The Diamonds||3:59|