Psycho Mad Sally – How II Survive (2013)

After you’ve done this a while, you start to get very jaded about all the solicitations for coverage that come along with it. One one hand, technology has made the music world a little better, opening the door for bands that may never have been heard in the old world. On the other, anyone with an instrument, a basic recorder and a basement can make a record, and so much of the stuff that gets thrown your way is, honestly, not very good.

I try to sit down about once a week and sort through my inbox. After an hour or so of opening e-mails from people who play types of music I have little interest in or sampling music that sounds like it was recorded in said basement by people who are just learning to play their instruments, you start to wonder why you bother. Then you find something pretty cool.

I’m not going to say that Psycho Mad Sally is the best band that I’ve discovered recently, but they are interesting, and that can be a sadly rare commodity these days.

The band presents itself as punk gypsy grunge metal, and that’s actually not a bad description of what they do.

I’ll start with the track that I’ve been playing pretty regularly, “Detox.” The tune opens with a catchy bass line from Shane Neptune, then guitarist Andrei Sin comes in, layering a crunchy riff over the top. It’s all accentuated by Andrzej Stopyra’s violin — which alone piques my interest. It’s an unusual instrument for a hard rock/metal band, and Stopyra doesn’t play the instrument in a style that you typically hear in the metal where it is used. He takes a more folk approach. Finally, vocalist Sasha Nevskaya comes roaring in with a hardcore snarl. The pace gets picked up for a punk-style chorus complete with shouts of “hey, hey, hey.” Unlike most punk bands who eschew virtuosity, though, Sin lays down a pretty good guitar solo after the first chorus. The result is a really good song that I can’t seem to get out of my head.

The other seven tracks on How II Survive don’t quite reach the level of enjoyment I get from “Detox,” but they all have something to offer. Album opener “Marion Sims” begins with a Metallica-worthy thrash riff before dropping into a groove riff that’s one of Sin’s best here. No one is likely to confuse Nevskaya with Cristina Scabbia, but she delivers a pretty catch vocal melody in her growl. After a few minutes of metal, they end the song on a punk note. There’s an appropriately Eastern European flavor to the song, and How II Survive as a whole, which is another thing you don’t often hear in metal.

“My Case” leans more toward the punk side of the band, but delivers a very catchy chorus and more nice flavor moments. “World Fits the Kitchen” opens with a ska feel before launching into a full punk attack for the chorus. “Tennessee” brings the record back to the metal side with almost a 1980s feel in places.

“Danger Danger” opens with pounding drums from So Kemumaki (one of four drummers on the album) and another cool bass line, this time from Pierluigi Laurano. It’s one of the more interesting tracks on the record, a bit alternative rock, a wee bit proggy in a way, and with plenty of that aforementioned Eastern European flavor. I’m kind of put in mind of Sisters of Mercy on the chorus. Sin breaks out of the song for a soaring metal guitar solo.

“Silencium GAG” is a raging, rollicking punk rocker with Nevskaya spitting her lyrics with venom. Finally, they close the album in gypsy mode with “Johnny’s Symptom,” which has some traditional Russian sounds, mixed with a bit of ska perhaps. It’s probably my least favorite tune on the album, but there’s a nice moment in the middle where the song slows down and things are more subdued.

For the most part, Psycho Mad Sally keeps things short and sweet in punk fashion. “Johnny’s Symptom,” checking in at a hair over four minutes, hangs around the longest, but most clock in around the three minute mark or less. Nevskaya’s lyrics aren’t always the best, but she always delivers them with feeling, and musically, I’ve got no complaints. Aside from Nevskaya, Sin and Stopyra, How II Survive does seem to have featured a revolving door of musicians on bass and drums, but that trio is obviously a good core to build on. Nevskaya has the energy, Sin has the licks and Stopyra brings the X-Factor to the table with his violin.

So, yeah, this is why you open all those e-mails and follow all those links. Every now and then you find a hidden gem, and Psycho Mad Sally’s How II Survive certainly qualifies to my ear.

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Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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