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Himsa 

With Bleeding Through, Death by Stereo, At Wit's End, and American Werewolves. Friday, April 9, at Pirate's Cove.

Talk about an extreme makeover: In 1999, Himsa's eponymous debut EP hit an unsuspecting hardcore underground via Revelation Records, and, well, not a whole hell of a lot changed. The Seattle band started as a lot of ex-hardcore kids do once their record collections and worldviews expand. As bassist Derek Harn said back then, "Let's just think of [Himsa] as it pertains to me: 'core,' which means the central part of anything."

It'd take two more years and as many releases for Harn's idea to come into focus. With its 2001 Revelation EP Death Is Infinite, Himsa overhauled not only its lineup, but also its sloppier edges. Himsa version 2 was a lean, muscular monster, powered by the gut-level urgency of hardcore and punk, but burning with the finessed thrash and intense melancholia -- that is, the "core" values -- of the finest Swedish death metal.

Three years later, countless other ex-hardcore bands are discovering At the Gates' death-metal landmark Slaughter of the Soul -- but Himsa is already miles ahead of the pack. True, the band's 2003 album for Prosthetic Records, Courting Tragedy and Disaster, packs the requisite fretboard pyrotechnics and growling vocals of At the Gates, In Flames, and other Gothenburg greats. But Himsa's songwriting chops and melodic prowess prove these guys also understand the deeper set of influences -- namely Slayer and Iron Maiden -- behind those Swedish meatballs.

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