Well, dear reader, here we are again. It’s been just over two years since the release of Full of Hell’s last full length. In the time since Trumpeting Ecstasy, they’ve released a second collaboration with sludge/noise savants The Body, this time taking a detour into the wild world of power electronics; a split with fellow weirdos Intensive Care; and a noise single. They’ve toured, both in the United States and overseas, they’ve played festivals, and members of the band have been involved in other projects, like Eye Flys and Ramuh. Put simply, the boys have been busy since 2017.
The point of opening with a description of the goings-on of Full of Hell as a collective and of the activities in which its members have found themselves between Trumpeting Ecstasy and Weeping Choir is to demonstrate a simple but important fact: this has not been a passive break. Of course, most breaks between albums aren’t. In our world of cutthroat capitalism and the inability of a solely artistic life to fit its mold, none except those already at the apex of the popularity that metal can offer have the luxury to rest on their laurels. But Full of Hell have been exceptionally busy from a musical perspective in the months since April of 2017; they’ve has spent the period between their last two releases honing their sound to an even more vicious edge. Anyone can see that they’ve been sharpening their teeth, and good lord, does it show: Weeping Choir is not only the next logical step forward from the “harsh grinding death” quartet, it’s the next step up.
Full of Hell’s death metal influence, certainly present on previous releases, is much, much more prominent on Weeping Choir. Right out of the gates, opener and first single “Burning Myrrh” confirm this: walls of ugly, discordant sound smash directly into the audience with the potency of a tsunami; the wave transmogrifies quickly into a surprisingly organized melody with tremolo-picked guitars sitting atop blast beats that brings to mind the sound of Immolation or Formulas-era Morbid Angel far more than any of the powerviolence or grind bands one would expect based on the band’s past offerings. In fact, as a track, it serves as a grim manifesto of the album to follow: the rolling drums and ensuing explosions of sound, the incessant screeching fire of distorted guitar that gives way to a diSEMBOWLMENT-esque reverberating clean channel near the very end, the expert build-and-release of tension that makes extreme metal so worthwhile and palpably enjoyable to listen to. Everything points to a single message: Weeping Choir is a record that spills over unapologetically with white-knuckle energy and seething, pyroclastic rage.
It’s hard to even think of standout moments from the record that I don’t want to spoil for first-time listeners, but suffice it to say that Full of Hell have once again upped the ante for their songwriting and their tendencies to experiment with form. Track three, “Thundering Arches,” splits its time equally between a sledgehammer-dragging lurch of a riff and a caustic tremolo-picked “melodic” section that eventually come together at the very end for a moment of truly spectacular carnage. Album centerpiece “Armory of Obsidian Glass” builds, and builds, and builds, slowly but surely, utilizing unsettling choral vocals courtesy of Lingua Ignota, before pulling out the stops on one of the most strangely emotional and affecting sequences I’ve ever heard from a grind-inflected record this side of The Inalienable Dreamless. Some surprises I certainly want to save, but let me at least say this: every out-of-the-blue moment on this album hits perfectly and with confidence to spare.
Two individuals in this album’s creation must be given special shoutouts: Dylan Walker and Kurt Ballou. The former for his vocal skill: Dylan screeches, bellows, growls, and howls like a fucking banshee on Weeping Choir. Not only are his modes of vocal expression each excellent, but the range and tact with which he switches between each are perfectly timed. The man’s use of his throat is fucking masterful. Mr. Ballou also deserves kudos; Weeping Choir is a truly impressive feat of production and studio engineering. The record has that perfect balance of clarity and sheer raw power that only the best production and most attentive eye to quality can achieve.
All in all, when the cacophony recedes and the dust has settled, there’s only one thing I can really say about Weeping Choir: this feels like the record Full of Hell have been building up to for a decade now. Across Weeping Choir, we see a band that is not only more confident in their riff-writing ability than ever before, but a collective that has completely coalesced into a legendarily potent artistic force. Once again, Full of Hell have thrown down the gauntlet for both their own future endeavors and every other extreme metal band out there.
. . .
Weeping Choir drops through Relapse Records this Friday, May 17th. Get ready.