Review: Lähiöbotox, Itä-metal (Deggael Communications, 2022)

I've been curious about socio-political Finnish hip-hop-tinged metalcore group (you read that right) Lähiöbotox for some time now, and I need to refresh my memory on their earlier work, 'cause this new album kicked my ass right away. Tearing through 11 songs in a surprisingly compact 30 minutes, Itä-metal feels more direct and in your face than I recall, fusing top-notch rhythmic chugs with blistering melodic solos in a manner that should be equally appealing to fans of mandatory classics like Leeway or Suicidal Tendencies as to the contemporary generation like early/mid Turnstile.

And while its impact carries with it a groovy, badass type of aesthetic, it's important to make the "socio-political" distinction up front, because this style of music can tend to be dismissed as silly or lyrically hollow, but all of these songs are about meaningful topics, relating to issues such as the immigrant experience in Finland, the adverse effects of alcohol and illicit substances, the futility of chasing material gains, the anxiety of isolation, etc. The lyrics are all in Finnish, so I can't understand a word, but it's great to know the content carries a strong message that listeners would not typically expect from this niche of metal-based music.

"Mä Herätän Sun Traumat" acts as sort of a tone-setting intro, and quickly highlights the excellence of the production—superbly crunchy guitar tone, massive and very present bass, crisp percussion, forcefully central vocals, and a tight mix with just the right amount of breathing room. As an early sign of the breadth of styles employed, "Ei Pyhiä" is super energetic and largely follows a very traditional, old school hardcore type of framework; but then "Myrkky" (which includes a guest spot from Unto Helo of Rytmihäiriö) digs into some midpaced chugging with sporadic pinch harmonics, and even has some Moonfog roster-sounding industrial-tinged black metal vibes with the dissonant chord phrasings during the break around 1:29!?

And can we talk about the absolutely scorching tradeoff solos in "Lähiöni Tuote"!? Holy shit! The track features appearances from The Haunted's Marco Aro and Samy Elbanna from Lost Society, so perhaps the latter is contributing to the madness within!?

The darker edge of "Mieheltä Toiselle" starts to remind me of L'Esprit du Clan, additionally through the chant-like gang vocals of its chorus. That could in part be because this is tight and precise heavy music that's not in English, but... stylistically they're definitely in the same sphere, so I feel the comparison is more substantial than that. "Köyhyyden Pelko" is the only track that utilizes some vocal effects which carry more of a modern hip-hop type of influence, but that's not something that really plays a role in the aesthetic of the album as a whole. In fact, in an unexpected twist, the composition later breaks into some of the most blatantly fast-paced, crossover thrash-like riffing of the entire outing!?

Closer "Kuollut" feels like breakdown after breakdown, with sick bass grooves and an almost sludgy/swampy undercurrent—thus the palette of influences expands throughout the entire album!

I haven't seen a physical copy yet, so I can't speak to much beyond the music, though I will say that I love the late-'80s/early-'90s aesthetic of the cover art. Said visual might imply slightly lighter fare than what's actually in store, but I can assure you, this shit hits hard, and pretty much every track should elicit head bobs of approval, at the very least. I feel like were the band from NYC, they'd be much more known by now, so you have to respect them staying true to themselves by keeping the lyrics entirely in Finnish, though it may limit their reach to some degree (let's face it: some listeners just don't open their ears wide enough).

I'm impressed. This is one hell of an album, and as a result I'll be watching Lähiöbotox much more closely from here on out. Awesome.

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