Full of Hell has as much of a pedigree in noise as they do in metal or hardcore. The Maryland/Pennsylvania-based band has self-released a series of harsh noise cassettes titled, naturally, FOH Noise, and even in their more song-driven moments, they derive much of their power from an abrasion that many of their peers don’t. Feedback and static pervades their sonic world; it’s what makes them natural musical partners for artists such as Merzbow and The Body, with whom they’ve released collaborative albums in the last three years. It’s also what makes them far more interesting than the average grindcore or powerviolence act. It’s what makes them, against all conventions of what most of us perceive grindcore to be, subtle.
There’s a moment in “Bound Sphinx,” the third track on their Kurt Ballou-produced new album and Profound Lore debut Trumpeting Ecstasy, where Full of Hell briefly put aside the breakneck riffs and juxtapose their crushing bass breakdown with a wall of static and abrasive electronics. It’s sublime in its nuanced menace, by no means as aggressive as what leads up to it, but just as intense. These moments crop up throughout the entirety of Trumpeting Ecstasy‘s 23 minutes, breaking up the relentless white-knuckle endurance test with bits of texture and contrast that add new dimensions to their songwriting. Grindcore, generally, isn’t music that lends itself easily to diversity or malleability, but Full of Hell’s a different sort of band. They’re one that thinks outside of the visceral-aggression box.
Trumpeting Ecstasy is as much a showcase for Full of Hell’s strengths in songwriting as it is in their mastery of claustrophobic terror. “Deluminate,” the leadoff track and first single from the album, is a solid stage-setter for an album this uncompromising, little slices of melody and exhilarating riffs revealing themselves between the pummeling. “The Cosmic Vein” is the first moment in which Full of Hell actually approaches melodic accessibility, however, with a furious hardcore chorus that’s as fun as primal scream exercises can possibly get, as well as a series of finger-tapping triplets that add a bit of guitar heroism to a song that feeds off of pure venom. And with “Crawling Back to God,” Aaron Turner of Isis and Sumac lends his beastly bellow to a brief diversion into death metal dissonance.
The first 13 minutes of Trumpeting Ecstasy go by quickly and with little in the way of moments of reflection or space. The final 10 comprise its last two songs, “Trumpeting Ecstasy” and “At the Cauldron’s Bottom,” which are not only the album’s longest songs, but its most stylistically ambitious as well. The former is the closest to Full of Hell’s noisy hellscapes from collaborating with The Body, not coincidentally because that band’s Lee Buford provides the track’s sheets of grinding distortion, while vocalist Nicole Dollanganger provides an effectively ethereal counterpoint. The latter, meanwhile, begins ostensibly like the album’s shorter tracks, all explosive drums and dissonant darkness. Yet it transforms within a couple minutes, slowing to a molasses sludge with Dylan Walker trading vocal retch with Converge’s Nate Newton. It slowly fades away into a gigantic pummel of drums, their presence alone as heavy as anything else on the album. It’s an ominous detail, but a subtle one. That Full of Hell are able to recognize and implement these seemingly minor yet highly effective details make them stand apart in a field where nuance often has little currency. There’s no extreme, in either direction, that they aren’t able to perfect and somehow turn all the more terrifying.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.