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Skirting the NOLA Under-Underground

These are the side projects that didn't make the doc but still require your full attention.

As our new NOLA documentary makes clear, the many branches of New Orleans’ metal family tree are as gnarled and interwoven as Spanish moss (see the soundtrack for more). We covered a lot of ground in the documentary, but with a city like this, it’s tough to avoid letting some of its shadier specimens slip through the cracks. Between supergroups like Outlaw Order, Arson Anthem, and Mike Williams’ half dozen side projects (Corrections House, The Guilt Of… and so forth), you’d think these dudes would want a break, but we’re not even scratching the tip of the iceberg yet.


Given that everyone’s been in damn near everyone else’s band on and off since 1989, it can get hard to keep track of who went where, so I’ve put together some supplementary materials for you here. Some of NOLA’s biggest names have dabbled in some unexpected sounds, and their personal detours might surprise you.


Alongside Crowbar prototype The Slugs, Drip was basically patient zero for that low-down sludgy groove that’s become synonymous with New Orleans’ metallic output. The band’s revolving-door lineup featured the strung-out talents of younger, rougher versions of Mike Williams, Jimmy Bower, Kyle Thomas (Exhorder, Alabama Thunderpussy), Big Ross (Down, Brian Patton, Tommy Buckley, Glenn Walle, and Glenn Rambo at various points. It’s easy to see how that kind of chaos would result in Drip’s sole release, 1992’s Learning About Manners demo, and luckily for the rest of us, the many Drip refugees snowballed out into a grip of legendary bands.


The Krewe was another early NOLA super-supergroup that had come and gone by 2001, and save for a brief reunion in 2012, all we got was one full-length and two splits’ worth of their bluesy, funky psyched-out instrumental stoner rock; they cut one apiece with Acid King and The Obsessed, the latter of which includes a badass Skynyrd cover with Pepper Keenan on vocals. Originally dreamed up as a stress-free, jammy time-out from their main gigs, Clearlight gave Jimmy Bower, Joey LaCaze, Andy Shepherd, Paul Webb, and Big Ross a chance to blow off (and then inhale) some steam.



Longtime Eyehategod bassist Gary Mader is one of the nicest dudes in all of heavy metal, but you’d never guess it from the amount of miserable music with which he surrounds himself. Mader and three friends started Hawg Jaw in 1997 and kept the hardcore punk-spiked sludge flowing until 2006; the band’s never officially disbanded, but no one’s seen hide nor hair of them since their last LP dropped.The last known lineup included Armed Response’s Mike Dares, Ol’ Scratch’s Matt Williams, and the ubiquitous Paul Webb as well as Mader, and fortunately, he’s got plenty of other bands to keep him busy.


Suplecs never quite got their due, despite bassist & vocalist Danny Nick’s brief stint in Eyehategod. They’ve been truckin’ along since 1996, hauling fuzz-drenched doom riffs and bluesy rock leads through the sludge and making the kind of meat-and-potatoes stoner doom-via-Howlin’ Wolf racket that you could set your watch to; they’ve always remind me of a Southern Roadsaw with a little more soul. The band’s more recent output for Small Stone has a much bigger Clutch bro rock vibe, but you can’t deny the pull of nasty gems like “Stalker.”


The first time I heard about Ritual Killer, I was in a bar near the Ninth Ward with Sammy Duet and a few friends when a twitchy dude who may or may not have had a pentagram tattooed on his forehead brought them up in conversation. How can you argue with an introduction like that? The band’s singular release, Upon the Threshold of Hell was released in 2005, and it vomits forth eight tracks of raw, tumultuous black/death that sounds like it was recorded in Satan’s basement just the other day. It rules. Ritual Killer currently exists in a state of limbo; rumors of reunion gigs swirl and swirl again, but nothing has materialized thus far (though Goatwhore’s James Harvey is listed as their new bassist).



Speaking of punishing black/death, Abysmal Lord carries the torch that Ritual Killer set aflame back in the late 90s straight into the Ross Bay cemetery. They’re a fairly new band with Alabama origins but, much like TireFire (who are fronted by Matt Russell, booker for NOLA metal mecca Siberia), add a nice biting chill to a scene infused with syrupy grooves and Southern swing. Check out the trio’s more death obsessed other band, Grave Ritual, too.


If there’s one thing that NOLA metal scene veterans are terrible at, it’s their utter inability and unwillingness to abandon their roots. Classhole is an excellent example (as is Patrick Bruders of Down’s crusty hardcore band Gasmiasma). Paul Webb pops back up alongside Hawg Jaw alumni and Eyehategod bassist Gary Mader, haarp’s Grant Tom, and TireFire howler Matt Russell to spit out shards of noisy hardcore punk ripped straight from the 80s. Expect a new split with Fistula soon. Here’s a new track to tide you over:

Follow Kim on Twitter - @grimkim