haarp’S THE FILTH PREDICTABLY FILTHY
The metal-as-catharsis philosophy has been around since the genre’s beginning, and is probably the most viable explanation when trying to communicate with non-metalheads as to why you like the music you do. The righteous throat-shredding screaming of Anaal Nathrakh’s V.I.T.R.I.O.L., the floor-clearing slams of Devourment and Suffocation, The Abominable Iron Sloth’s mean-spirited doomcore grooves, the face-eviscerating relentlessness of Hate Eternal… all conducive of aiding and/or alleviating a bad mood. But even though there are other reasons we all like metal — generally raising one’s heart rate, it’s great drinking and/or smoking music (well, depending on the band), technical prowess, finding gems in what most people think is unintelligible noise — I think catharsis is the strongest one, especially now in the more-extremer-than-you era. When venom and bad blood are practically palatable, through either stroking your own foul mood or offering solace in the fact that others out there feel as vicious as you, metal, to put it as flowery as possible, makes you feel better.
I offer this simple and general a framing device because haarp (no caps, which makes it great to start a sentence with…), New Orleans’ latest crop of grimy doomsters, are remarkably angry. White-knuckled, hairy backed anger, to be specific. And their debut for Phil Anselmo’s Housecore label, The Filth (most simplistically apt album title since Wormrot’s Abuse), is an hour of unrelenting bile-blooded rage dragged slowly across the gravel. If geographic doom comrades (and occasional split partners) Thou are stretching and augmenting beauty through ugliness and violence, any beauty or consonance found in haarp’s music is purely coincidental. Their MO is to demolish and piss on the ruins, ruminating on nothing afterward. So in a genre where the state of being displeased is amply commended, haarp sound especially irate. This isn’t bad-day-at-work music; this is someone-set-my-life-on-fire music.
The band’s skill lies in employing zero frills when it comes to their approach yet still sounding fascinating. No tapping or sweeps, no Skynard-reject riffs, no four-armed drums fills, no wall-to-wall incoherent shrieking or brees. That last one is the most important: vocalist Shaun Emmons’ death-doom growls are occasionally articulate, and there’s something deeply unsettling about understanding the words to what’s typically indecipherable. Instead of being blinded with rage, he’s focused and lucid, but still boiling over with anger. Many Eyehategod knockoffs institute rage like it’s par-for-course; haarp take the emotion seriously, with seemingly every element of the music reeking of it. The guitars often trod along at a pace too slow for a slam or a breakdown, but not at the absolute zero slowness of Moss or Sunn o))) (if my calculations are correct, The Filth is filled with what one Axl Rosenberg would call “Elephants Marching Riffs,” particularly “Here in the Dark“). The bass, when it emerges above all else, pulses menacingly. The general lethargy of the drums causes sticksman Keith Sierra to hit harder, sounding massive as well as take a page from the Matt Haikus-on-“Dopethrone” book in terms of taking simple, slow riffs and framing them in an interesting way. haarp are massive and lumbering to an absurd degree; the band sound like the smell of a tuna sandwich sitting under a radiator for a month and a half in a studio apartment a block away from a rendering plant. They don’t fuck around. Not even a little.
The Filth’s only flaw is that an hour of unrelenting bad vibes isn’t an every day affair. Hell, if your life’s going alright, it may be a biweekly or once-a-month event. And an hour of it straight is a bit much to take (and the tracks bleed into one another, so it’s best to absorb on the whole). But music this heavy and sickly wouldn’t mean shit if it went down easy. This isn’t for kids with scene hair and frowny Facebook statuses; this is for people with actual problems and actual adult anger. This is music for losing your house, seeing your girlfriend tongue kiss your stepbrother at Wal-Mart, getting rear-ended at a stop light and having your insurance premium go up, or losing your job while your boss continues to make high six figures. Life can be beautiful, a collection of almost-literary coincidences resolving into wonderful outcomes that render each subsequent breath a gift. But more often than not, life is shit. haarp are there for that, red-faced and scowling.
(4 out of 5 horns)