There is a strange sense of conflicted identity on Psychothermia’s debut record Fall to the Rising Sun. The first five tracks combine modern metalcore and alternative metal with classic New Wave of British Heavy metal references quite successfully. The vocals are strong, the guitars are down-right Maiden-esc at times while always sounding distinctly modern and American, and the percussion is both heavy and complex. There are plenty of catchy hooks to go around on these first five tracks, and lots of big, memorable, sing-along choruses; “Slash and Burn” and “Anarchy” in particular stand out and are likely to get stuck in your head. This first section of Fall to the Rising Sun, while unquestionably indebted to the more recent offerings from Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and Deftones, indicates how enjoyable and catchy modern American metal can be when it is polished up and written skillfully.
Sadly, the winds shift uncomfortably on track six titled “Here’s to the Angels”, and we are transported back to some foul Ozzfest mosh pit circa 2000, or even Woodstock 1999. Like all truly bad ideas, such as eugenics or trickle-down economics, nü metal never totally dies; there will always be some kids from Fernley, Nevada or Maumee, Ohio hopped up on adderall and motocross DVDs willing to carry that wretched flame for the new generation. For the remaining six tracks of Fall to the Rising Sun Psychothermia vacillate from sounding like a third-rate, apolitical Rage Against the Machine, to tedious, late-’90s alternative/scrunge, to the very, very worst nü metal impressions of bands like Mudvayne and Korn. The shift in style from the front half to the back half of this record is so jarring that I am forced to ponder some sort of explanation for it beyond simple bad decision making.
I have a theory on the subject that may or may not have validity: Apparently the boys from Psychothermia were all previously in a band called Canobliss which even released an EP entitled Psychothermia in 2008. I have not gotten around to listening to Canobliss, but I suspect that the first half of this record represents newer Psychothermia material, whereas the poorly matched, tiresome second half of Fall to the Rising Sun represents older Canobliss material. This is all speculation of course, but if I am wrong and it is the other way around with the second half of Fall to the Rising Sun representing their best, most recent material, then they really need to reevaluate their new direction. If I am right, and tracks like “Don’t Look Back” and “Anarchy” indicate what Psychothermia would like to be about, then we can hope that the follow up to Fall to the Rising Sun will be free of the icky, “let the bodies hit the floor” nü metal nonsense that pretty much ruins Fall to the Rising Sun as a whole.
There is no doubt in my mind that Psychothermia are talented dudes, both as musicians and as songwriters, but that talent is mostly squandered on Fall to the Rising Sun. I have one final request for the guys in Psychothermia: Please, please do not hire a DJ to scratch over your music. The late ’90s and early ’00s were a dark time for American metal and Fall to the Rising Sun indicates that that darkness has yet to totally dissipated in certain parts of Southern California.