The Way

With songs like “Soul Patriot” and “Money for War,” Chico’s Esoteric makes no qualms about its political leanings. On its debut, The Way, the band brings together hardcore, reggae and metal to form “ganja-core,” a collision of positive, socially conscious lyrics, loud reverberations of high-energy sound and an irie reggae vibe. Slow songs like “Self Inflicted” are welcome and display Esoteric’s ability to meander into gentler stuff, without losing its bite, but part of me wished the album included more of the song’s soulful sound, sans guttural roars. Guest vocalist and former Chicoan Becca Neunuebel makes a welcome melodic addition to “I-Freedom,” a Sublime-esque reggae song punctuated by metal riffs. Weird, though: “Make Up Your Mind,” the second-to-last track, is roughly three minutes of skank-influenced rock, which fades out, comes back, but remains instrumental. This mystery is followed by the album’s final song, which starts one minute in. “Burn With Me” is a stoner’s love ballad in which the singer implores, “Will you come burn with me? And lose ourselves to everyone?” But it’s such a departure from the rest of the album, it’ll leave you confused and a little paranoid, even if you haven’t lit up that spliff.