Maniacal chaos meeting impenetrable sound in the middle of a cosmic battle field with no boundaries and only space between the forces sounds both terrifying and completely exhilarating. Which forces come on top? Who has the gears necessary to dominate their opponent and beat them into submission? Ever scarier: What if they join together and exact their carnage on the rest of the world.
That latter scenario is what we get with the unholy union of hardcore/grind/sludge/noise warriors Full of Hell and Japanese experimentalist and uber-collaborator Masami “Merzbow” Akita. On the surface, their meeting could be catastrophic. They don’t seem like beasts that should mix together, but we’re also talking about two sides with terrifying open minds and the means to make some of the most fascinating sounds in extreme music. And it turns out on their collaborative album together–Merzbow gave Full of Hell a collection of sound for them to do with what they wish–is a fire burning hard and furiously during its running time. It’s also an interesting lesson in contrasts as, if you buy the CD version of the collection, you get the 11 tracks that are more FoH-driven and a second disc “Sister Faun” that’s more floating in Merzbow’s bizarre world. (The always reliable A389 is handling the vinyl.)
It’s not like Full of Hell–a four-headed crusher consisting of vocalist Dylan, guitarist Spencer, bassist Brandon, and drummer Dave–needed more madness to add to their cauldron. Their live shows already are becoming a thing of legend, and their stock continues to rise as more people take notice of their hellacious sound and total devotion to the bloodshed. Merzbow is known the world over for his insane, bafflingly expansive catalog of material as well as prior collaborations with artists as varied as Boris, Sunn 0))), Melt-Banana, and that’s just lazily scratching the surface. His place in noise culture was more than secure before this record with Full of Hell, and after it, the album proves just how far the man’s work can stretch, fit, and make something even more explosive.
The main disc is actually the shorter of the two, with Full of Hell raging through 11 cuts in 24 minutes, which really is no surprise. The first three songs blaze by in about two minutes total, with “Burst of Synapse” getting things started with dizzying intensity; “Gordian Knot” blistering all over the place and letting the noise unfurl; and “Humming Miter” running headlong into piercing shrieks and growls, weird guitar parts, and pure detonation. “Blue Litmus” runs a little over two minutes, with maniacal growls spilling forth, guitars spiraling all over, sludgy bruising making the scene more savage, and bizarre sounds stabbing and leading toward “Raise Thee, Great Wall, Bloodied and Terrible,” a strange noise feast that bristles, with vocals buried in the din and every element boiling blood. “Thrum in the Deep” dumps more muddy riffs into the mix, with guitars smearing soot, the growls coming from the depths of Dylan’s intestines, and every element rumbling hard, every bit of noise scorching.
“Shattered Knife” has messy guitar leads that are ugly and satisfying, thick bass that blasts down walls, and short blasts of death that make the most of the 53 seconds. “Mute” is an even quicker gust at half a minute, containing deranged shrieks and a thick wall of fury, which leads into one of the two mammoths of the record “High Fells,” that rolls for a bloody 4:30. The sounds sting your ears, with feedback flooding and threatening, some strange clean singing giving the track a dose of strangeness, and bizarre, skronked horns emerging at the end, giving off the sense of permanent damage. “Ludjet Av Gud” goes 5:43, and it’s even more horrific, with what sounds like an oppressive furnace belching heat and the voices coming off as more monstrous than ever before. The track lurches and gurgles, with growls swimming deep underneath all the elements, guitars grinding, and relentless pounding that bleeds into finale “Fawn Heads and Unjoy.” This gives the band a last gasp to get all of the aggravation out of their system as they assault with tricky guitars, horns bursting again, and a death grind that comes to an immediate end.
The “Sister Faun” disc has fewer songs that run longer, with five tracks stretching over 36 tense minutes. As noted, this is the section that is more obviously Merzbow-inspired, and it’s a mind-melter from the start, with “Ergot” rising up on a prayer and electronic noises clashing with one another. Guitars wine and moan and eventually sound like a dying engine. “Merzdrone” is fairly self-explanatory, with beats drubbing, hypnotic swirling making your mind trip, and a bed of terror causing panic to invade your cells. “Aphid” has growls sinking in the depths, with laser-like sounds squealing, noises pulsating and shredding, and animalistic outbursts dressing the thing in an extra layer of volatility. The song has moments that are absolutely terrifying. “Crumbling Ore” is the shortest cut on the disc by a second at 4:09, with strings droning out and sludgy pounding emerging, pushing into siren-like wails. The last track “Litany of Desire” runs a beefy 13:46, and the cut is built on an oppressive loop that stretches through the duration. Along the way, that spine picks up added bits of strange noise and fiery hammering, and eventually is dissolves into a slow drawling passage that sounds like it’s dying alive, coming to a sleepwalking, out-of-body finish.
Clearly Full of Hell are on their way up in the world, and their relentless touring (they’re in my town nearly a handful of times in late 2014/early 2015) are keeping them a well-oiled, dangerous machine. A tour with Merzbow would be an event to behold and would probably blow minds of noise fans everywhere. As for Merzbow, what more really needs to be said? His resume and his work here speak for themselves. This collaborative is as furious as it is interesting, and even when you’re being pummeled with decibels, there remain a few empty pockets for you to dream as well. This is a really scathing union, one that hopefully has more to it than just this one collection.
For more on Full of Hell, go here: http://fullofhell.com/
For more on Merzbow, go here: http://merzbow.net/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/