The first ten seconds of Garden of Burning Apparitions is a perfect introduction to Full of Hell. Honestly, it’s a gentle easing into the band’s style. Dylan Walker’s level, uninterrupted scream is the most plainly blood curdling we’ll ever get from him, and the pummeling riff is straightforward metallic hardcore. Everything goes straight to hell from there, as usual.
In terms of speed and intensity, the band already escalated as far as there was to go on Trumpeting Ecstasy, the breakout record that set them apart. Its follow up, Weeping Choir, gave them some breathing room to experiment, which is where they’ve remained since. Full of Hell continue their trend of accelerating stylistic ambition on Burning Apparitions, combining an even wider variety of genre tropes and experimentation, while cohering the whole of their pedigree into one complete package.
These people stay busy. Since Weeping Choir, guitarist Spencer Hazard spent time with the precision sludge outfit Eye Flys, touring with the likes of Daughters and Torche. Meanwhile, drummer David Bland and bassist Sam DiGristine spent last year grinding it up together with Jarhead Fertilizer. Dylan Walker continued his long running collaborative relationships with The Body’s Lee Buford and Lingua Ignota’s Kristin Hayter, further honing his sense for dramatic tension. Those other projects are time well spent strengthening what each member brings to the table, and the result is evident in their diverse yet cohesive sound.
Full of Hell’s progressive fusion of grind, death metal, noise, and hardcore results in visceral detail. The whole band can switch from a pulsating grind beat to grape-stomping hardcore nearly as fast as Walker can switch between his banshee wail and gruesome death growl. The lead single “Industrial Messiah Complex” begins with one of the band’s classic bend-and-crunch riffs, throwing back to the best of Weeping Choir’s burly strength, but soon enough Walker’s vocals are chopped by rhythmic manipulation. The chugging guitar of “Burning Apparition” pounds like your heartbeat in your ears, only audible in the breaths between frantic bouts of mania. The noise interlude “Derelict Satellite” feels like ripping apart at the seams, metallic unknowns scrape and clatter amidst gurgling static, and on “Non-Atomism” they funnel Bland’s prodigious drumming through a meat grinder of electronic distortion.
Shoshona Rosenberg’s bass clarinet, supported by DiGristine on saxophone, is a welcome addition throughout, but a true show stealer on “Urchin Thrones.” The otherworldly horns first underline and mirror Walker’s vocals, then duel with them as everything devolves into angular dissonance. The theme of the song stands out as a pleasant surprise on its own—soft-regicide by way of nihilism. It’s easy to consider Full of Hell as a purely anti-religious outfit, but their misanthropy knows no bounds.
Hazard’s guitar is striking, first showing off alternative tuning with discordant arpeggios on “Asphyxiant Blessing.” “All Bell’s Ringing” then features a playful noise rock riff that would not go amiss on a Pissed Jeans or The Jesus Lizard record but for Walker’s menace and Bland’s ferocity. Later, Hazard plays with uncommon restraint and simplicity on the grungy “Reeking Tunnels,” and unlike “All Bell’s Ringing” Bland follows suit on the kit. Even Walker’s vocal rhythm falls into neat lines compared to his usually whiplash wail. The result is shockingly straight-ahead relative to the spastic vitriol up to this point. Hazard’s melodic and tonal experimentations are sublime but fleeting. As compelling as they are, everything in the end leaves me wanting more. But I’m just as content to hit play from the beginning on this one as I am to wait for what comes next.
Full of Hell continue to prove themselves a collective of musicians intent on supporting each other’s growth, and in turn sharpening the absolute edge of extreme music. The album closer, “Celestial Hierarch,” gathers up the best of Full of Hell thus far, gracefully transitioning from overwhelming powerviolence to sweeping doom, laden with masterfully discordant guitar and culminating into a piercing noise. The track concisely wraps up the album as a crowning achievement for the band, the result of their tireless progress over the past decade.