Since their beginnings in 2009, Maryland/Pennsylvania’s Full of Hell have explored the very furthest reaches of extreme music, distilling elements of grindcore, hardcore, death and black metal, electronic, industrial and punk into a sound that is truly terrifying in its anger and control. Ingenious collaborations with Merzbow and The Body garnered critical acclaim, but it was 2017’s Trumpeting Ecstasy that really put them on the Album Of The Year lists. Weeping Choir is the much-anticipated follow-up.
The band have described this fourth “solo” album as very much a companion piece to their last. The cover art, to begin with, is an inversion of Ecstasy’s flaming nun face, and this album again benefits from Kurt Ballou’s acclaimed production. With eleven short tracks running over twenty-five minutes, the structure, lyrical themes, and tropes and genres referenced are very similar. But the boundaries have been pushed further; it’s hard to believe any music could be more brutal in its evocation of human misery than Trumpeting Ecstasy, but Weeping Choir manages to achieve just that. The music is filled with surprises, textural changes and about-turns that shock the listener and yet make perfect sense.
Full of Hell are commonly described as grindcore, but they have always gone far beyond that, generating a remarkable array of musical textures. The grindcore element is heavy in opening track “Burning Myrrh,” as well as “Haunted Arches,” but there’s a strong death metal vibe in many of the tracks, notably the deeply-satisfying riffs in “Thundering Hammers,” “Downward” and “Silmaril.”
This is the video for “Burning Myrrh” and it’s white hot!
Full of Hell have always stood out thanks to their innovative use of noise, electronic and industrial effects, which amount to something of a trademark. “Rainbow Coil” is all effects and white noise; “Angels Gather Here” has a powerful industrial soundscape, and “Armory of Obsidian Glass” brings in howling voices from beyond the grave. “Armory,” which features guest vocals from Lingua Nota, is the biggest surprise on the album. This lone sludge/doom piece, which comes out of nowhere and utterly commands your attention, begins with a simple, wavering poignant riff, that gradually blends a spooky choir into unbearably poignant layers.
Vocals are dual effect – scratchy snarls contrasted with guttural grows - and while you can’t distinguish the lyrics from listening, it’s well worth reading the lyrics sheet. There are sections of remarkably haunting poetry here. Lines such as “Like a blind tern/ Its flight is caged its wings are weighted and drawn” and “For the jewel of a jewel of a jewel/So does the weeping mother probe her clutch” will have you wondering: do these words mean nothing, or everything?
Referencing this many musical genres and throwing in this many effects and ideas should result in a mess. But it isn’t a mess, it’s quite the opposite. Full of Hell are in complete command of their material, which is raw yet elegant in its mastery of each element. As with Trumpeting Ecstasy, there is very little pause between songs, which demands that you continue with the band on their descent into hell.
This is music that is genuinely terrifying. Not in the comic book death metal or horror movie sense, but in a way that turns your soul cold. Weeping Choir is an absolute nightmare, and that’s what makes it so brilliant.
The men that make the maddening music; here’s a recent press shot of the group.
Weeping Choir Track Listing:
01. Burning Myrrh
02. Haunted Arches
03. Thundering Hammers
04. Rainbow Coil
05. Aria of Jeweled Tears
07. Armory of Obsidian Glass
09. Angels Gather Here
10. Ygramul The Many
11. Cellar of Doors
Run Time: 25 minutes Release Date: May 17, 2019 Record Label: Relapse Records