Monday, November 23, 2009

Haarp - Demo

Haarp blends the tortoise-tempo molasses chugging onslaught of traditional sludge metal with bard-like tale telling, mature harmonic composition, and low, guttural vocals that would impress even today's dethcore generation. Though somewhat new to the scene the band already boasts supporting slots on a tour with Down and The Melvins. While most sludge metal bands utilize introspective lyrics focused on addiction, suicide, and self-loathing, Haarp are epic storytellers, weaving elaborate tales of gods and monsters. The southern pentatonic bends and blue notes that typified the genre ten years ago have been replaced with straight-rhythm, dissonant riffs that have more in common with Superjoint's Use Once and Destroy than Eyehategod's Southern Discomfort. It's still very slow music, but one can see that many metal genres gave birth to Haarp. The recording quality is another matter of differentiation. Don't get me wrong; you can still feel the sticky floor of a New Orleans barroom when you listen to it (like most sludge records), but unlike many of their contemporaries, Haarp invested in overall mixes that are clear and crisp, with veteran New Orleans engineer Bruce Barielle mastering the stuff.

The 2007 E.P/ Demo begins with guitar feedback and an unedited drum count-in like many sludge records, but opts for the cleaner bass guitar sound found in more traditional metal genres, rather than the fuzz-saturated bass sound of many stoner and sludge recordings. The first track, "Soothsayer" begins slow as expected but builds to a nice, up-tempo groove reminiscent of stoner bands like C.O.C. and St. Vitus. The riffs in "Blackhand" bring to mind a slow motion murder scene from a horror movie. "Fog Cutter" is an interesting track, with two guitar solos that could not be more different from one another in style, building into a section that is moody, mature, and melodic. The main tempo of the song generates that wonderful urge to slowly nod the head like a pump jack on an oil pad, and just when you think they're going to speed it up they run the slow riff for another 40 seconds. "Synthetic Sense" feels like it could be a newly-discovered track left over from a Crowbar or Acid Bath session, so much so that I kept instinctively expecting Dax Riggs to make a vocal appearance. The dynamic tempo changes of "Dissemination" register very much like a non-sludge record, reminding me more of Gojira or Mastodon, and the track definitely supports Haarp's diversity of influence." ~ (


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