Full Of Hell – Weeping Choir

Band: Full of Hell
Title: Weeping Choir
Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: 17 May 2019
Country: US
Format Reviewed: Digital stream

What is this thing we call heaviness? Where do we find it? How do we produce it? How do we get to heavy? Maybe the way to heavy is down tuned guitars, rumbling bass, deep ominous tones; maybe it’s through terrifying, frenetic speeds, or maybe torturously slow, dragging rhythms, or anywhere between. Maybe the road to heavy is paved with drum kits hit with maximum force, with vocal chords ripped and straining. Maybe it’s about atmosphere, about dread and doom and fear and darkness. Maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s aggression, maybe it’s psychosis, madness, chaos, and danger. There are many roads to heavy it seems. Pursue almost any of them and you can expect to find Full Of Hell somewhere in there.

My introduction to Full Of Hell came very recently. I heard them spoken about, thought they sounded pretty intense (with a name like that you really have to be) and decided I’d enter through their first album, 2011’s “Roots of Earth are Consuming My Home”. And what an harrowing cacophony that was. My initial impressions: noise, chaos, fury, an occasional touch of early Swans and a lot of grindcore pushed to the outer extremes. I didn’t fully get it, but intense it was for sure, and heavy no doubt.

Since their debut, there’s been half a dozen more “full-length” releases (the band stretches that definition to its limits: some of their “albums” are barely over 20minuts long), a handful of EPs and some interesting looking collaborations (Merzbow, The Body, Psywarfare). I expect by the end of this year I will have immersed myself in every release, but for the time being my frame of reference is from the first release straight to here.

Having bypassed eight years of development and it was interesting to discover how the band has evolved. I expected the noise, I expected the furious, whirlwind tempos; I expected the blastbeats and a sprinkling of early-Swans misanthropy. It’s all here. From my first exposure, I understood that Full of Hell take extreme metal and push it to the far outer orbits of melody in the pursuit of heaviness. Still, here there were some additions that surprised me. When the thundering blast beats of opener Burning Myrrh transforms into a pounding crawl, there’s an ominous tone that underpins the final savage beat of each phrase. I don’t know what it is, but it worms its way under my skin. “Thundering Hammers” meanwhile is Morbid Angel at their most mid-tempo stomping. Here and occasionally elsewhere on the album the band will actually let enough air in the room for something like a groove to breathe.

With Merzbow as a collaborative reference point, I shouldn’t be surprised by the 3minute noise of “Rainbow Coil”. If I can get through Today Is The Day’s double album noise assault “Sadness Will Prevail”, I should be able to digest this. I don’t really know what it’s supposed to do for me, but I’ll gulp it down like the rest I’m given here. “Weeping Choir” in all its fury is pretty diverse in how it chooses to tear at your mortal soul from one track to the next. So I give the band the benefit of the doubt. However, I am to be torn to shreds so be it.

Most tracks come somewhere in the 1 to 2 minute range. Battering blast beats, psychotic riffing, screams and guttural grows are a given. The band’s music is so savage and intense that 20-30minutes feels like a suitable exposure. Long enough to feel it coursing through your veins, but brief enough to avoid blood poisoning and bowel cancer… hopefully.

It’s a mark of how extreme the band’s template is that tracks like “Thundering Hammers” and album closer “Cellar of Doors” feel a little tame by the band’s standard. I would never have expected to hear Cannibal Corpse as a reference point on a record and think “ah this is a little bit of light-relief”, but that shows where Full of Hell have started out from in terms of the brutality of the music. Some people might prefer a more consistently brutal record, but I do enjoy hearing the band reaching out in a few different directions.

While tracks repeatedly rush in and out again like savage anonymous knife attacks in a crowd, it’s the 7 minute, mid-album “Army of Obsidian Glass” that sits as the centrepiece to the whole record. Starting with resonating, overdriven, down-tuned guitar (maybe bass), the track comes in full-doom here. There’s a great, dark atmosphere, with something low in the mix – maybe vocals – adding a creepy and haunting tone. The drums meanwhile have an air of Filth/Cop era-Swans, before the track breaks into a kind of Black Metal ride-out. It’s almost double the length of any other track on the album but doesn’t feel overlong.

Full of Hell are playing at the outer limits of extreme metal. As the band grows it seems the soil that feeds dark, twisted roots nourishes something ever more wonderfully ghastly. Maybe raging, maybe pummelling, maybe screaming, maybe dragging, maybe droning, always heavy. Welcome to the heaviness. 8.5/10 Tom

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