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K is for Genius - 90%

UCTYKAH, July 11th, 2009

Do you like BLACK SABBATH? Do you like the MELVINS? HIGH ON FIRE maybe? If so, let's talk about KARP. Never heard of 'em? It's alright, son. Grab a chair, and we can reminisce a little about the 90's. Karp occupied a tiny niche in American indie-ground, along with a few other groups like THE FUCKING CHAMPS, C AVERAGE or GODHEADSILO, who wanted to play hard and heavy but preferred to filter their sludge or metal influences through the indie rock aesthetic. These bands mostly stayed away from the metal scene, looked like and played for regular indie crowds majority of the time and were signed to seminal American indie labels, from K Records and Sub Pop to Kill Rock Stars and Drag City. Out of these groups KARP were the heaviest (although GODHEADSILO with their bass-drum line-up were pretty chunky and noisy as well) and certainly the most sludgy, what with the huge MELVINS influence creeping out from just about every nook and cranny. Bass player Jared Warren ended up forming BIG BUSINESS sometime after KARP's demise and later incorporated the band into a greater institution overseen by Messrs. Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, thus coming full circle and landing himself his dream job.

Prior to these transmutations, during the merry 90's KARP led their relatively short-lived yet careless existence of a bunch of indie goofballs, who, nonetheless, rocked like there is no tomorrow, not to mention harder than any crappy grunge band they ever happened to share a stage with. They were the bona-fide holy fools of metal. Serious about not being serious, they wore their nerdiness and pro-wrestling obsession (see their sophomore effort "Suplex") proudly on their sleeves. The band steadily perfected their chops since their somewhat uncouth debut "Mustaches Wild" and finally arrived to this exclamation point. Literally called "Self Titled LP", this is the band's pinnacle: a big, fat, hyper, super high and buzzed elephant of a heavy metal album that is nonetheless well-honed and precise, quick on its feet and damn funny to boot. "Bacon Industry" opens with a huge and loud riff, boisterous rhythm and patented King Buzzo-style wailing screams. Four minutes of pure audio ambrosia run by you in a moment's time. All you are able to notice is a tiny melodic line embellishing the RIFF towards the track's end. "Coming after you all! Coming after you all! Coming after you all! Going out to dual!" Yeah!!! Wait, what? No matter, just give me a Hell Yeah anyway!

From there on it's a continuous ritual worship at the altar of the almighty riff, forsaking all and (almost) any solos in the process. The old MELVINS' formula [if a riff is good enough to repeat once, it's good enough to repeat one hundred times] is adhered to, albeit in a punkish form, which in KARP's hands works pure wonders. With the record's economical thirty minute length, everything is condensed, tight and vividly succinct, and all the better for it. Eight sandpaper-raw, bulldozer-heavy and raucous tracks smash, bash, crash and burn through your ear lobes, leaving nary a nerve or a brain cell untouched, while being as catchy and infectious as an Ebola virus. Each piece is centered around one main riff or a riff sequence, which is then tinkered and played around with throughout the track's duration. And boy, do these fellas know their way around their riffs! They turn and twist, change tempos, build up tension, squeezing just about all they can from these chords in the time allotted, while descending into the gluey, sludgy pits of hell and then rising above to gallop through a vast, wide-open faraway into metallic Parnassus. It's beautiful, really, especially considering how damn catchy and hook-laden this thing is without actually being melodic. "Octoberfleshed", "D+D Fantasy" and the above-mentioned "Bacon Industry" would be chart breaking top hits in an alternate Klingon universe, with the latter two being the record's only tracks that offer something resembling a piece of lead work, guitar squealing on "Spelling Trouble" notwithstanding. And then there the album's crowning closer - gargantuan doom/sludge of "J is for Genius", followed by a 25-second gleeful purgatorial burst of heavy metal abandon featuring both the Devil and the Fiery Gates of Hell - a hellishly hilarious way to end this monster. What a friggin' ride! Get on it!