Before disregarding Full of Hell as a by-the-numbers grindcore, black metal, powerviolence or whatever extreme metal hybrid label you prefer (harsh grinding death is still my favorite), consider the versatility in their abrasive sonic history. The Maryland and Pennsylvania-based quartet’s eight-year-long foray in the hardcore and metal scene was nasty from the start, not by virtue of the genres they operated under but a symptom of the band’s rage-fueled creative energy exemplified in their noisy experimentalism. “Full of Hell & Merzbow” and “One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache,” the former with prolific noise artist Merzbow and the latter with avant-garde metal duo The Body, each showcased how multifaceted Full of Hell can be while still maintaining a deeply rooted cacophony throughout their projects.
“Trumpeting Ecstasy” is an interesting album in that it sees the band mostly leaving the noise-oriented darkness by the wayside, embracing a blackened death metal chaos unlike their previous projects; with Kurt Ballou handling production, there really only is one trajectory for this record to follow.
The prelude to the flurry of death-noise that is the 59-second-long “Deluminate” comes in the form of quotes by Werner Herzog, taken from the “Burden of Dreams” documentary. “Nature here is violent, base,” the German filmmaker states, speaking of the South American jungle he was then working in, “the trees here are in misery.” Immediately after, the track begins, and the metal influence is impossible to ignore. Like a nightmarish folk story, vocalist Dylan Walker’s shrill high screams set the grounds for the brutally bleak album, “Once more we’re thrust into the vacuum of God’s yawning maw.”
If the nun bearing a void-like face set aflame didn’t make it evident enough, “Trumpeting Ecstasy” is nihilistic rumination churned into 11 caustic tracks, an undertaking that denounces the usefulness of man, of God. It’s hard not to notice some trace of cosmic dread, some Lovecraftian influence seeping into lyrics and even song titles like “The Cosmic Vein.” Though condemnation of fruitless piety isn’t anything new in music, let alone extreme metal genres, Full of Hell’s articulations are eloquent — not in the verbal annunciation (although Walker’s growls and screams are admittedly coherent) but the morose pummeling of the human will through grotesque imagery.
“The Cosmic Vein” and “Crawling Back to God” (the latter sampling a distorted reading of William Peter Bally’s “The Exorcist’s” prologue echoing the cosmic horror elements present in the album), while lyrical siblings, demonstrate the augmentation in Full of Hell’s extreme sound to a hellraising onslaught of harsh grinding death. D-beats are nowhere to be found on “Trumpeting Ecstasy,” but the tempo shift in the middle of “The Cosmic Vein” harken back to their kinetically driven hardcore roots wherein drummer David Bland carries the momentum forward. The track’s static wall of noise in the beginning and the guitar tapping toward the end further layer the track with memorable elements despite what should have been a clean transition to “Crawling Back to God.” The riffage guitarist Spencer Hazard pulls off on the latter track’s beginning are insatiably melodious, as is the contrast between that and the smothering dissonance that permeates the rest of the song. Former Isis vocalist Aaron Turner’s guest appearence is a disgusting one, the perfect collaboration in this realm of music.
Actually, I recant the previous statement: Nicole Dollanganger on “Trumpeting Ecstasy’s” titular track makes more sense than bread and butter. The Run For Cover singer-songwriter’s eerie vocals on the penultimate song complement Walker’s throat-shredding bellowing and the neural trudge through the group’s now-refined hybridizing of metal and searing noise. If only there was more, even if only slightly, of this discordant reverberation of the band’s previous experiments. For what it’s worth, the album does dabble in some electronically destructive tonal shifters, as with the final track, if only slightly as they pursue more diverse soundscapes.
Verdict: Full of Hell’s new sound is a more malevolent one, one which parts ways with the punk and noise influence that lingered in their previous works in favor of a more virulent, nihilistic fury. “Trumpeting Ecstasy” is Full of Hell at their best — conceptually and sonically.