The New Orleans’ sludge scene is a pretty open term mainly united in that it revolves around Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records. It is also a remarkably healthy scene. With Husks, haarp, which evolved out of the post-Katrina uncertainty, presents only three songs. Yet the disc clocks in at nearly 40 minutes. Probably not surprising to anyone who has seen the band play a seamless headlining set.

For reasons of over-simplification haarp is a sludge band (metal has way too many sub-genres these days anyway) for the sole reason that it moves with the slow but methodically deliberateness of a tug carrying a heavy barge through the murky Mississippi into the Port of New Orleans. This is a disc that takes repeated listening to wrap your head-around. But the payoff is pretty huge. You’ll know it’s good pretty quickly but it might take five concentrated listens for it to really hit. One of the band’s best assets is singer Shawn Emmons and that in his tortured and fierce growl you can still make out most of what he is saying. Another strong point is that bassist Bret Davis, drummer Keith Sierra and guitarist Grant Tom really grind along as one unit, granted one that has every intention of bashing your head apart. It’s refreshing to hear the drums and bass get equal in a mix when a band is good enough to accomplish that locked-in togetherness. Kudos to Anselmo’s production for making the mix as seamless as the music. Husks isn’t concerned with technicality but instead of giving the aural experience of being slowly bludgeoned with a sledgehammer.

The group might spell its name with a lowercase “h” but it’s definitely uppercase Heavy. “Bear” is getting solid play on Sirius/XM’s Liquid Metal probably by virtue of being the only song under 10 minutes. It’s also a respite from the absolute pounding you get from the opening “Deadman/Rabbit” and closing “Fox” (Yes there is an animal theme going on here but I haven’t figured it out. Better luck to you).

I’ve always admired how metal has thrived in the Big Easy being that the city has always marketed itself as the not only the birthplace of jazz but also a stronghold for funk, blues, zydeco and rap. Housecore Records and haarp  go a long way in showing there’s also room for some of the heaviest sounds in “The City that Care Forgot.”


Label: Housecore Records (audio CD can be purchased here)