For True Believers Only
New Orleans quartet haarp has taken their own brand of sludge metal to the next level with the release of Husks, three songs spanning forty minutes. The plodding and down-tuned sound from their 2010 debut, The Filth, is now even slower and lower. The end result is akin to playing a 45 on 33 1/3 speed.
There is no easing in to Husks. The eighteen minute long opener, “Deadman/Rabbit,” starts at full volume, and could represent the only time the BPM breaks 110 on the whole album. Drummer Kieth Sierra slows everything down just enough for Shaun Emmonds to deliver his garbage-disposal, hook- and rhythm-free vocals. What he does possess is the ability to make these screams largely decipherable, which serves to make the experience all the more horrifying. Husks is the metal version of beatnik jazz—free-form poetry over improvised jamming, but with an upright and saxophone replaced by Grant Tom’s bowel-churning guitars and Ryan Pomes’ attention to the low B string on the bass.
Middle track “Bear” is particularly directionless, with a brief hint of upbeat pounding about the song’s midsection, promptly returning to its original sloth. “Fox” is the musical equivalent of walking behind a group of slowpokes on a narrow sidewalk—slowpokes who like to turn around and yell at you: “Your foundations will be shaken!” or “Weeping women gather under shadows!”
haarp may be an acquired taste, and their followers will eat Husks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But for newcomers and casual fans of doom rock, there’s not much here to welcome them into the arms of the band or genre.