I feel like I was late catching on to Full of Hell. I first saw them at This Is Hardcore in July of 2014 and had been impressed, but not blown away. Somehow seeing them smashed in between dozens of hardcore bands made it hard for me to register what they were all about. I saw them again a couple of times throughout 2014 and was impressed by their energy – but it wasn’t until my friend Robin gave me Full Of Hell & Merzbow to listen too that it clicked. Somewhere deep in my second or third listen of the record I realized that Full Of Hell, as humble as they may be, are essentially changing the future of heavy music.
Started in 2009 – apparently as more of a straight up powerviolence band it wasn’t long before the band started to spiral into electronic influenced madness. It’s been five years since the bands frontman Dylan Walker dropped out of college to work on Full of Hell and it’s incredible to hear how this band has evolved – from an Ocean City grindcore band into something far noisier and almost sublime. Romantic music lives on in what Full of Hell do and they are unafraid to push the envelope with ambient sounds, horns, and all sorts of avant garde ideas.
Perhaps the first true indicator of what Full of Hell would go on to be came on their second release, the now seminal FOH Noise Vol 1 which features the semi-mythic face of a man known for allegedly appearing in the dreams of random individuals (It was later deemed to be a hoax). Yet the simple buzzing and the more abrasive electronic moments that followed helped to evidence the greatness of what Full Of Hell would become. It’s strange to think that this kind of band could appeal to so many hardcore kids, given the droning sense of alienation on this record. Yet there is something rather meditative about the FOH Noise collection, it’s demented, but that’s kind of the point.
I’ve only ever had the chance to interview the bands guitarist Spencer, and then only for a few minutes, but even from that (Along with personal relationships with the band members) I have realized that these guys are very in tune with themselves and the weird reality they have only just started to delve into. The thing is, the dudes in Full of Hell are incredibly humble, sure they’ve toured Southeast Asia and sure, they’ve toured Europe more than almost any other band their age, but every once in a while they still will play a church basement. Despite the overarching grinding power of their music they remain down to earth, never getting a tour manager and hanging out with the local bands. It’s impressive to see that a band credited with changing the face of heavy music can remain so in touch with reality and just be four simple friendly dudes who like to see their friends whilst on tour.
As I started to really dig into Full Of Hell’s discography I realized that the depth here is perhaps unparalleled in any other band that has started up in the last few years. I mean – How many bands who debuted in 2009 now have thirteen releases and another on the way? These guys are as prolific as they get, and I feel that’s part of why they are so willing to experiment. Full Of Hell are unafraid of crafting apocalyptic and soul searing sounds, but they also know what it means to create music that forces the listener to think. They are giving a new nobility to punk music, a refreshing breath of fresh air that is exactly what the genre needs after years of stagnation.
What Full Of Hell do, and what is perhaps most prevalent on Full Of Hell & Merzbow (Although you can hear it throughout their discography) is use the magic of bands like Swans to accentuate vile grindcore. The usage of electronic sounds alongside grind is not really a new idea, (Hell, even Napalm Death do it!) but Full Of Hell seem to implement it differently. The sense of raw energy is vital to the entire thing – how else could you justify a track like Gordian Knot which seems to reek of cosmic brutality and feels almost as if it where torn from another dimension?
It comes through in the live performances just as much as it does on the records too. The raw energy of the band is exuded through the bands frontman, Dylan, and his violently quaking body. He thrashes around the stage and is beaten in the pit – a slave to the incredibly heavy music that has come to help define his life. He is grindcore incarnate – extremely friendly, smart and polite when you talk to him, but a veritable monster the second he steps onto the stage. Full Of Hell’s live shows are a sight to be seen. The photographs barely do justice to the raw chaos that abounds. It’s a strange balance that they strike, between the avant garde music that is almost reminiscent of John Zorn at times and the grindcore basis of the sound, yet it is one that kids in the global hardcore scene seem to love.
One thing that Full Of Hell do that has always made them more exciting to me is their use of additional musicians to help guide their stormy music along and make every set unique. The stunning attack that defines this bands live set is only possible because every time they get up to play it feels very different. Be it in the use of noise elements, or by bringing a trumpet player or saxophonist along (I’ve seen them perform with both) it’s hard to deny that Full Of Hell know what it means to create a unique live experience. In world where this is increasingly important it gives the band a definite edge. The fact of the matter is, as much as they might want to pay tribute to their influences (And they certainly wear these on their collective sleeve) Full Of Hell are doing something totally unique and groundbreaking.
One thing that really struck me from my lone interview with Spencer was his statement that “We just say we’re a punk band. That can go in so may directions.” The sense of artistic liberation is crucial to Full Of Hell’s aesthetic and helps to make them, in my eyes at least, a far greater band. The raw diversity of sound, be it in the saxophone parts found on Full Of Hell and Merzbow or the power tools occasionally used in the FOH Noise releases Full Of Hell know how to create deliciously interesting sounds – sounds that never cease to inspire the listener and force them to look at music from strange new directions.
Incredibly heavy and undeniably inspiring Full Of Hell aren’t even close to finished, even though in the last 5 years they’ve put out more music than most bands do in decades of work. Their latest project is a record with The Body which they didn’t even start writing until they were in the studio, a novelty for the band. Apparently they have a few more compilations of that nature coming up, but the main focus the band has at present is a 7 inch featuring new material of the sort featured on their first two records. That’s the thing about Full Of Hell. Sure they could team up with one of the most important composers of the 21st century and write one of the greatest heavy records of all time, but if they want to go back home to Maryland and write some grindcore and put that out… well, they’re damn well going too.
The point I’m trying to make is that Full Of Hell’s very existence is a crucial to the history of grindcore and even punk rock as a whole. They have proven that the genre isn’t just teenagers slamming on guitars, instead it has the potential to stick to its primal roots whilst embracing something greater. Full Of Hell are showing the way forward for punk – embracing a brave new future for the genre with a band who can open for Earth just as easily as they can for Carcass. Anyone who values what is weird, alternative, or just gosh-darned interesting will have no time digging in to what Full Of Hell represents and their weird dichotomies are exactly what we need if we want extreme music to remain vital for years to come.