It has been remarked that if Derek Harn didn't have such enormous hair, he probably wouldn't have a job. If John Pettibone weren't so mad, the same would likely be true. Kirby Johnson and Sammi Curr apparently keep their jobs via their comedy-team repartee and acquisitions of ludicrous, pointy guitars. Chad Davis can play. These five fuckers (bass, vocals, guitars, and drums, respectively) are Himsa. And, in case you didn't know, as many Seattleites don't, Himsa are a big damned deal, thanks to over five years of hard touring, selling 40,000 beautifully brutal CDs, garnering much air time and coverage in specialty radio and press, and epic live demonstrations of prowess and power.

If you have any familiarity with the contemporary heavy-rock scene, you know that this community likes to hyperarticulate the fine points of classification. We can summarize the chronic debate as follows: Himsa are "metalcore," one of many subgenres that reflect the hybridization of metal and hardcore. Pettibone further clarifies: "I'm not in a rock band. I'm a hardcore kid in a metal band."

Typical of the ferocious and punishing nature of "definitive" metalcore, Himsa feature incorrigible growling framed in virtuosic musicianship—and they possess a lot of fancy gear. Uniquely, Himsa rise above what can be a one-dimensional genre, integrating melodic hooks reminiscent of classic '80s metal and the heavy harmonics of Scandinavian metal. They also reliably bring it live with riveting spectacle, featuring Pettibone's passionate shout-outs (plus regular instances of overzealous fan "subduing"), the charismatic dynamics of equally matched double lead guitar players, Harn's stage-dominating hair cyclone, and, of course, a killer drummer in a big shiny cage. All of which points to the fact that Himsa rock.

By touring relentlessly for many years, putting out masterful and critically acclaimed CDs (the newest, Hail Horror, streeted in February), moving lots of units, packing all-ages clubs, garnering beaucoup colorful words and pictures in glossy metal mags, Himsa have risen steadily over their seven-year existence. Along the way, they've had countless members come through their ranks. But Himsa's current manifestation coalesced in 2003 with Harn (sole original member), Pettibone, Johnson, Curr, and finally Davis.

Despite their significant accomplishments and Seattle pride—they credit the wet, dark gloom as an intrinsic part of the band's character—Himsa have mostly escaped notice from the city's print media. Why is that?

One explanation is that covering Himsa amounts to hurricane chasing. They blew outta town 48 hours after Hail Horror was released. The Stranger finally caught up with them in Dallas. Struggle through the oversold room full of jacked-up superfans, and you're greeted backstage by weary wisecrackers with a hearty, "Hi, we're Himsa, and the party stops here." Midpoint through the tour, the band succumb to dog-tired resignation. Prompting them to produce pithy commentary equals herding cats.

"Just make it up. We don't give a fuck," Curr advises, but not before insisting on watching the opener, A Life Once Lost. "The kids are mopping the stage with us every night." Right.

After Himsa's triumphant, right-back-atcha set, Curr says, "Dude, I stepped on that kid's hand, I hate it when that happens." "I did the same thing," says Johnson. "Don't they know? 'Kids—monitors are for feet.'" "Yeah, well, they learn. They only make that mistake once," adds Curr, to communal laughter.

Angry, straightedge frontman Pettibone is Himsa's surprise happy face, with an off-stage personality that's unexpectedly gregarious. Tumbling out of the van in San Antonio—into the mayhem of 12 bands and vans—he proclaims, "Today is SERIOUS BUSINESS day." Turns out, it was "go get tattooed instead" day. But eventually you'll catch him, at which point he'll discuss heavy shit: "Hardcore can't be defined," he stresses. "It's a feeling. It's community. It's about DIY. It's about involvement. You live it, you can't define it." Contemplative pause, broken with huge grin: "It's about being pissed."

After spending three days in Texas with Himsa, one finds them to be too consumed with just being Himsa to analyze themselves. Pondering intelligent summaries of their band, Johnson/Curr trade catchphrases over the umpteenth cheap beer: "Himsa—cool? Probably not," or, "Himsa—we think it's funny."

These sharp-witted local boys are devoted past reason to their spectacular metal band and consistently make their mark in the harshest environments. They're a force to be reckoned with. Take note, Seattle.

editor@thestranger.com