One could hardly imagine thrash-metal trio Guilty As Sin pandering to their audience or sticking to one genre. Who would have thought there would be a place for King Crimson-style Frippery and ambient keyboards on a thrash-metal album, or trumpets and eastern sounds lined up alongside hardcore punk?! Psychtronic, the U.S. band’s fourth album since coming together in 2008, contains material that is likely to alternately thrill and alienate almost any listener, regardless of their musical taste. The band consists of Zak Ovoian on drums and “vocals” (not even the most generous could refer to him as “singer”!), guitarist Dan McAdam and bassist Ryan Dilberian. Other credited contributers include a brass player, belly dancer and cigar supplier! Not your usual thrash/punk line-up, that’s for sure.
Psychotronic opens with one of those ambient synth passages so beloved of spacerock bands, and it’s given the self-explanatory title of Start Transmission. So far, so good one would think, until the following four tracks rip out of nowhere in the space of about one minute apiece (Into Dust, the shortest, is a scant 45 seconds in duration). They sound near-identical, although Destroyed Reptoid 1.0 does feature momentarily melodic guitar lines in between the “verses”, and will be either musical heaven or hell, depending on the listener’s liking of GBH-style hardcore punk or Anthrax-thrash. Those more in the market for psychedelic spacerock are best advised to skip ahead to the sixth track – Addicted To Cyanide – which, at seven minutes, is as long as all the preceding tracks combined. The change in style is almost absolute as the band morph into King Crimson/Toolesque math rock, with a hint of Rush at their proggiest. Godekli Tede makes use of Middle-Eastern scales (perhaps necessitating the employment of the belly dancer listed on the CD cover), albeit put together in metal fashion, before substituting guitars for a muted trumpet and hand drums, in an extended coda that manages to be both ambient and pounding. This is followed by the frantic high-speed instrumental When Machines Eat Flesh, calling to mind the progressive metal of Dream Theater and Arjen Lucassen. Album closer and title track Psychotronic lingers for twelve minutes (a third of the total album length) and consists of a spacey guitar jam referencing Hendrix’s Third Stone from the Sun and showing that these guys really can play when they have a mind to. This is overlaid with the sound of a 45rpm Dalek played at 33, before winding down into a bizarre three minute electronic outro unlike anything that precedes it, eventually fading out into nothing.
Psychotronic is a game of (at least) two halves, and is therefore extremely unlikely to please anyone in its entirety. Thrash metallers will love the first few tracks, everyone else will almost certainly run a mile. Those who enjoy mixing up prog-metal and mathrock will prefer the later tracks. Unfortunately, there is not enough material of either kind in the album’s 36 minutes to encourage most listeners to want to seek it out.
Reviewed by Pat Albertson