Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hellbender, Haarp, and Black Tusk at the End

What a night this night was. There were shows galore this night, from The Darkness playing somewhere nearby, to The Body and Sky Burial, to Ascent of Everest at the High Watt. And then of course, there was the show I went to: Hellbender, Haarp, and Black Tusk at the End. I think I chose right, what a fantastic star-studded evening of zazz this turned out to be! I arrived on the scene at what I thought was a few minutes late for the beginning of the show, only to find that not only was it not for another hour, but Hank III, his son C4, Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod, Kirk from Crowbar and a few others were hanging out on the curb. Hanging out with these guys, drinking beers, smoking cigs, and hearing stories about how Wino of Saint Vitus/The Obsessed was a crazy speedfreak motherfucker with a different girl every night felt like a privilege. But these guys were so cool that they'd probably scoff at such notions. After a good bit of shit was shot, the first band began to play, and everybody went inside.

First up was Hellbender.

If you've known me very well over the past three months or so, then you'll know that I bitch and moan about missing Hellbender each time they come to town, despite having owned and reviewed their full-length LP "Cosmolux" (scroll down a few posts to see for yourself.). I had initially planned on seeing Sky Burial and The Body tonight, but as soon as I heard that Hellbender was filling in for Lung at this show, I knew I couldn't miss them again. Boy was I right!

These guys were unbelievable. Groovy, psychedelic, and doomsome. It was beautiful. They really know how to start from something simple, like a nice bass or guitar riff, and jam it all the way up to its fullest extent. Everyone was completely in sync with everyone else, like a giant lysergic heartbeat. And guitarist Joey's fingers, good lord! They never stopped moving! No wonder that guitar string broke, no way that thing could take so much stress! It was restrung in a heartbeat, however, and the show went on beautifully. If you can't tell already, I am overwhelmingly glad I went and saw these guys, as they may have made some of the best live music I've ever heard.
9.5/10, easily.

Check out the badass 7" I picked up!

Next up was New Orleans' bangers Haarp.

Wow. These guys make music for your guts. By that I mean if you just put on some dinky headphones and listen to them, you'll probably go "meh, these guys aren't so great". These guys aren't headphone music. This is cranked up all the way in your car, huge stereo, seven-subwoofer slamtastic shit. Fuck your head, fuck your ears, fuck your mind. This is music for your guts. These guys rumble up from the core of your being and shake you all the way back down. This shit is almost death sludge, like a dying Argentinosarus' last cries while being sucked under a tar pit swamp. These guys start and don't stop the pummeling punishment until they've had their fill.

Look who showed up to party!

Their vocalist Shaun Emmons got down into the audience and stayed there for most of the set, roaring at all of us like he wanted to make sure that each and every one of us heard him, and felt his presence. What a voice this man has! Sometimes he would scream and sometimes he would growl, and all of it was with his whole body. And who else would shout lyrics into the mic along with him? None other than Phil Anselmo! Haarp is signed to Phil's label Housecore Records, and I think I heard somebody say that Down had just played close by recently and was off that night, so he, Jimmy, Kirk, and the other guys from Down must have decided to swing by in support of Haarp. It's hard for me not to sound like a squealing schoolgirl here, but goddamn was it cool to see Phil Anselmo in person.

Anyway, the guitar/bass riffs were sick. My only real complaint is that I wish these guys would have been a bit more dynamic. They threw in a few tasty odd time signature stanzas to keep things interesting, but perhaps a quiet section here or there might have increased the heavy parts by contrast. But, that's not really my call to make.

I wish they had a bandcamp, but I guess reverbnation is cool...

The last band of the night was Black Tusk out of Savannah, Georgia.

Getting a good picture of these guys was ridiculously difficult.
They never stopped moving.
I need to confess something. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Savannah sludge. Kylesa and Baroness, though pretty cool in their own right, really don't do too much for me. It's just really not heavy or doomy enough for me. It's plenty cool, just not... you get the picture. With that said, Black Tusk is probably the best Savannah sludge group I've heard. They play heavy, groovy stoner riffs at a midtempo pace with head-bobbing hardcore aesthetic. And did I mention everybody sings? Everyone in this band fucking sings. I haven't made up my mind fully about this facet, but I'm leaning more towards the "that's pretty cool" end of the spectrum. The best part is, each of their voices adds something a little different to the mix. Guitarist Andrew Fidler's shouts are high, bassist Jonathan Athon's are low, and drummer Jamie May's are somewhere in the middle. So when one member is playing a difficult passage, another might be on vocal duties. It keeps you on your toes in a fun way.

These guys were a whole lot fun. They might not be punchiest, the slowest, the doomiest, or the heaviest band, but boy were they fun. These guys were having a blast on stage, and it translates pretty well to the audience. You can feel their energy as they shred out a swampy punky riff in unison, or when Jamie beats the skins while yelling, or when Andrew lifts the guitar high above his head and smacks it a few times for some good feedback. I'd say go see these guys life if you can; a lot of their records can't truly capture how much fun they are live.

Stream their shit here:

Keep reading Nashvile! If I can ever get my shit together, I should have a review of Brother Ares', Billy Castro's, and maybe even Sky Burial's latest releases soon!


  1. Well done my friend. I actually dipped from the black tusk set to see ascent of everest. But harrp and hellbender is always a pleasure.

  2. Yo Court! We're playing this Thursday 6/14 @ Foobar. I think you might dig our shit.