According to The Cambridge Dictionary, ”sagacity” is a term that stands for the quality of having/showing understanding and the ability to make good judgments. When a band admits to having been influenced by bands such as METALLICA, PANTERA, STONE, and TESTAMENT, I would guess that ”Sagacity” is indeed a fine title for their debut album. In a world where music trends come and go, it is not exactly counter-intuitive to ground yourself in values that have already proven to last.
”Sagacity” is the newly released full-length by the Finnish thrash metal outfit TREATMENT, which is a fresh recruit in the roster of the independent rock and metal label Inverse Records. The band released full-length ”No Way Out” in 2015, but this new offering, released on 22 May 2020, can be considered to be the first “official” debut for the band. It is a selection of 10 songs, each of which offers a somewhat differently nuanced window to the band’s signature thrash metal sound.
TREATMENT was originally formed in Sodankylä as early as in 2005, first as a heavy metal quintet but after some name and line-up changes, it evolved into a thrash metal quartet. The band has cultivated their code of metal conduct for more than a decade and are now ready to manifest their arctic thrash metal in full splendor. The band likes to call their music progressive groove metal, but for a diehard prog-metal aficionado it might be a little too devoid of those djenty atmospherics of which modern progressive metal has become synonymous.
The progressive touch in TREATMENT‘s metal expression derives from the highly syncopated riffs that occasionally bounce to and fro in an odd time signature. The band’s forte is the air-tight delivery of these thrash metal chuggathons; these riffs are executed with surgical precision and the effect is even more pronounced by the tradition-savvy production that is rather dry in terms of reverb.
The overall feeling is slightly more reminiscent of a proggy-thrashy version of SENTENCED than the high-speed thrashing of yesteryear. The album relies heavily on the guitar dexterity of Joona Kilpi, but even during the solos the focus is on the melodic evocations instead of mindless lightspeed shredding. To finesse the old school vibe, vocalist Juha Kemppainen belts out his lines in a style similar to Tomi Putaansuu of LORDI and Janne Joutsenniemi of STONE. He has a voice that might not land him a job in the Cantores Minores cathedral choir of puerile boys, but it certainly has that energetic thrash metal grunt. For variety, there’s quite a bit of clean crooning too.
The album kicks off with ominous synth-strings in the short intro track, aptly titled ”Foreshadow,” before the song ”Hermes” chops the air in the best clipped thrash metal fashion. ”As Above So Below” layers the band’s stop-and-go riffing with sparkling, Baroque tap-delay cascades and modulating guitar legatos, while the following track, ”Fragmented Self,” steamrolls forward like the well-lubricated diesel engine of an M4 Sherman tank. In the verses of ”The Truth,” the distortion pedal is bypassed in favor of enigmatic guitar arpeggios that might even make Steven Wilson happy. ”Thrice” and ”Chokehold” serve riff snacks that occasionally resonate with an aura similar to Anthrax, without the AD/HD punk frenzy.
With each passing song, the album becomes more nuanced. ”Card 53” starts with a musical box theme that jingles in a somewhat unsettling mode as if foreshadowing the song’s circus music coda. With the song ”Dorian Gray,” the band takes the boldest steps out of its comfort zone, layering the Metallica-tinged riffing with a bit of throaty singing and guitar legatos that spiral across a wide soundscape, frosting the sound-cupcake with a lengthy cinematic intro. As the band is obviously still on the journey to fully define their voice, this is the direction that I would like to see the band explore further. The closing track, ”Oppression,” wraps up this thrash metal banquet with a dessert of additional offbeat riffs and tasteful whammy-bar legatos before a lengthy instrumental coda brings the album to a close. Just before the saga ends, we hear some of the most delicious guitar-sweeps on the album, while vocalist J. Kemppainen offers us a gravely spoken monologue that pleads forgiveness. One thing is for sure: the album as a whole needn’t ask for absolution.
In conclusion, TREATMENT is a promising new Finnish thrash metal act. The years spent at band rehearsals reflect in their superb precision and conviction. Yes, there are one or two occasions on the album when the band almost trips over a particularly brain-teasing riff construction, but in general the execution is sharp. ”Sagacity” may not revolutionize the genre, but it definitely isn’t burdened with the idiosyncrasies of thrash metal any more than the next band. There’s something essentially Finnish about the band’s signature thrashing that sets it apart from the frantic and aggression-driven international peers. Maybe it’s the plaintive undercurrent. It doesn’t slap you in the face, like with bands such as Viikate, or Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus, but it’s there. When the band builds up a little more confidence to boldly go where they have not been before, we may expect great things to happen.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
1. Foreshadowed (1:46)
2. Hermes (4:56)
3. As Above So Below (5:45) 4. Fragmented Self (4:36)
5. The Truth (6:39)
6. Thrice (5:31)
7. Chokehold (6:16)
8. Card 53 (5:43)
9. Dorian Gray (8:40) 10.Oppression (7:57)
Juha Kemppainen – Vocals
Joona Kilpi – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Tony Tenoluoto – Bass
Vesa Puunuvaara – Drums