It's laughably common for punk bands to evolve into metal bands, so leave it to Hebosagil to decimate that cliché by doing the reverse. Sort of. Even during their formative stages as sludge- and doom-obsessed teenagers, these cerebral brutes from Oulu, Finland, were not exactly a bunch of unwashed, garden-variety headbangers. Nor did they later adopt stripped-down hardcore mannerisms in some simplistic attempt at titillating boot-wearing nostalgists. Their 13-year history is less about stylistic changes and more about a shedding of youthful influences, a sharpening of knives, and a trimming of fat to reveal a steel-reinforced nucleus of sinewy, noise-dripping aggro-rock that defies easy pigeonholing.
For its fourth and best album, Lohtu ("Solace"), the quintet has perfected a sparser approach that intermittently exhibits nuance and restraint. Yes, the rhythm section still deals in tightly choreographed violence, the singer continues to sound as if he might knock out all your teeth, and the two-guitar whorl retains its sandpaper abrasiveness and keenly filed edges. But Hebosagil now specializes in a slow, searing burn rather than a relentless barrage. Traces of bittersweet forgiveness and bliss flicker where unobstructed anger once blazed. It's a gray, harrowing, and elegiac brand of heaviness that doesn't so much hammer you bloody as permeate your pores and overpower your subconscious. You'll go along willingly, if you know what's good for you.
Jordan N. Mamone, New York City
December 4, 2015