Full Of Hell - 'Coagulated Bliss'

Could Coagulated Bliss be a turning point for Full Of Hell? It seems that is the bands desired intention, which I can understand after being together for a very industrious 15 years.

17 days ago

Anyone who follows the sprawling and prolific musical output of Full Of Hell will know this is a band who do whatever they want, whenever they want. Full lengths, splits, EP’s, collaborations, remixes, live albums, compilations, box sets of noise, you name it and Full Of Hell have done it…and they do it frequently. 

Coagulated Bliss is their second release in under six months, following hot on the heels of When No Birds Sing, their rather excellent collaboration with the post-shoegaze group Nothing. While that collection of songs has an almost ethereal, dreamlike quality, Coagulated Bliss brings us back to where Full Of Hell are most comfortable and confident. It’s nasty, noisy and at times utterly furious. That, however, is not the full story. 

This album offers more moments of melody and respite than previous full-length Garden of Burning Apparitions, which was much more one dimensional in its approach. It seems strange to use the word “accessible” when talking about a band as extreme as Full Of Hell, so I won’t, but Coagulated Bliss does show a lightness of touch we haven’t heard before from the Maryland conspirators. It’s difficult to pin down exactly where the euphony has been injected as it’s been done so well, but this album breathes in a way their previous full lengths do not. For example, some tracks are just ridiculously catchy, and I mean proper earworms. You’ll be humming the punky main riff from the title track whilst doing the washing up, and I never thought a Full Of Hell song would be capable of provoking such behaviour. 

The opening two tracks set the tone for the whole album, and “Half Life of Changlings” kicks off with a riff that could have come straight off a long-lost Discordance Axis record. It’s twisted twangs then burst into explosive blast beats and a one-two duet of squeals and guttural roars, before beating you into submission with a barrage of double kick. Second track and first single, “Doors To Mental Agony” sucks you in with a thumping mid-tempo beat and overlapping screams, before the final third arrives with one of the best Converge riffs that Converge have never written! (This is not the only moment on the album where Converge’s influence is noticeable, and you’ll even find Jacob Bannon himself rasping on the final track.)

They’re not afraid to do some genre jumping either, with Godflesh industrial vibes served up on “Fractured Bonds To Mecca” and some Khanate-esque drone worship on “Bleeding Horizon”. These slower moments allow the listener to recover from the one-minute blasts of violence that convene around them. If anything, they make the heavier tracks seem even heavier, as is so often the way when playing with stark contrasts.  

The thing that impresses most on Coagulated Bliss is the quality of song writing throughout. It’s considered and structured but feels like the band were constantly pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, even on the tracks that could be called typical Full Of Hell fayre. The musicianship is of the highest quality, as you’d expect, and even though it’s somewhat stripped back there is still plenty to explore to keep you coming back for repeat listens. 

The album title, artwork (by the talented Brian Montuori) and Dylan Walkers lyrics all refer to the toxicity of small-town America and how somewhere that may initially appear serine can be anything but. Most of the band grew up in such places and have witnessed how these suburban “paradises” can become breeding grounds for drugs and violence. It’s a thought-provoking topic and one that matches the musical nuances on display perfectly. 

Considering Full Of Hell’s back catalogue and the variety of bands they’ve worked with over the years (Primitive Man, Gasp, Health, The Body, etc) it’s not surprising to hear more experimental expression seeping into a full-length release. Whilst they have shown us glimpses of this on certain tracks from Trumpeting Ecstasy and Weeping Choir, it now feels like those external influences have permeated an entire record. But it’s not just the bands they collaborate with that have a had an effect, Spencer Hazard (guitars) is a huge fan of the Melvins and Harvey Milk, and you can hear some of those fuzzy noise rock influences dotted all over this album, with ‘Vacuous Dose’ and ‘Gelding of Men’ being the main culprits.  

One thing keeps coming back to me though; why wasn’t saxophone utilised more on the album? Full Of Hell have used it wisely in the past and whilst we do hear some on the brilliantly melancholy closer, “Malformed Ligature”, I wonder if additional sax could have added another element of melody to those lighter moments. There are some brilliant recent examples where horns have enhanced an albums overall sound, including VOID by KEN Mode and (admittedly trumpet not saxophone) As Spoken by Knoll. I’m probably in the minority on this one, as I’m a sucker for saxophone in general, but it was something I wanted to get off my chest.  

Could Coagulated Bliss be a turning point for Full Of Hell? It seems that is the bands desired intention, which I can understand after being together for a very industrious 15 years. Even if it gives them a platform to play a wider range of festivals or tour with bands from different genre’s, it would be a healthy progression. Clearly there are only so many times you can tour the same towns and venues supporting the likes of Cattle Decapitation (et al) before you start craving something new. 

The band have been open about their change of approach and the fact it’s a very deliberate, concerted effort to find new audiences for their music. But let’s be clear, they haven’t turned into Ghost overnight, this is still incredibly heavy music that most people will run a mile from. In my eyes it’s an intelligent evolution of their sound that should keep the band together for longer, which can only be a good thing, right? How this new direction is received by the fans will be down to the individual and what they expect from a ‘proper’ Full Of Hell album. Here’s hoping most will be open and appreciative of the band’s decision. Personally, I’m lapping it all up with a big rusty spoon. 

Coagulated Bliss was released on April 26th. You can head on over to the band's Bandcamp above to coagulate it.

Phil Knock

Published 17 days ago