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Full of Hell: A “Weeping Choir” of Weeping Souls

full of hell weeping choir

In The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, Ygramul the Many is a monster made up of not one single body, but “innumerable small steel-blue insects which buzz like angry hornets.” This is an image that accurately expresses the acute sensory overload pushed and explored by avant-garde grindcore band Full of Hell on their new record Weeping Choir. (In a self-referential act, the band named one memorable track on the album after the monster).

The band’s fourth full-length and first release via Relapse Records was recently confirmed by lead singer Dylan Walker to be a companion record — both in album art and lyrical themes — to their previous full-length Trumpeting Ecstasy. Although the new album was also produced by Kurt Ballou at God City, musically, Weeping Choir takes a more exploratory approach than its predecessor.

“Burning Myrrh,” the opening track, uses call-and-response dual vocals akin to goregrind pioneers Exhumed with Walker’s high-pitched vomits followed by gutturally inhuman responses from bassist and backing vocalist Samuel DiGristine. Layered with electronics, rumbling drums from David Bland, and Spencer Hazard’s complementary urgent riffs, the first song foreshadows themes explored throughout the remainder of Weeping Choir.

Lyrical themes paradoxically incorporate death and decay with hope and continuation. This creates a claustrophobic confinement, an inability to escape from the constant repetition of life’s ongoing process of recurring dualisms. The concept of placing angels in charge because of humanity’s failure is posed in “Thundering Hammers” and echoes the unforgettable line “on bent knees, crawling back to God” from Trumpeting Ecstasy. The next track is “Rainbow Coil,” a highlight on the album filled with distorted industrial electronics, gleaming soundscapes, and drums accompanied by one line of lyrics throughout its three minutes: “Your head is a radio for speaking to God.”

The song is an innovation for the aggressive and often abrasive band in that it allows for a short introspective intermission from the previously unbroken rapture.

Weeping Choir grapples with the inability to control overarching social structures that restrict change and development outside of the system, instead turning toward repetition as a means to no end. This aspect of the sonic voyage is most clear in “Armory of Obsidian Glass,” a rare drone-heavy track from Full of Hell. Lingua Ignota’s hauntingly beautiful backing vocals are reminiscent of Jarboe’s collaborative work with Swans, and complement incendiary screeches and riffs similar to those of New Orleans-based doom band Thou. “Beyond the door are many doors,” Walker shrieks and continues, “beyond the window are many windows,” over and over until his voice fades into feedback-laden static.

Apart from a few breaks, this record has a newfound sense of urgency compared to the band’s previous output. In this sense, “Ygramul the Many” stands out, not only the track title itself, but as a starting point for what this band does best: an overload of brutal howls, and fast-paced drums followed by a short reproach to only be hit over the head harder by relentless sonic self-mutilation. Faced by a monster made up of innumerable hornets, it’s easy to see the monstrous enemy as insurmountable. And it all falls apart at the end; Hazard’s psychedelic free jazz abstractions shoot the listener deeper into a trip like no other.

Weeping Choir’s seemingly unending distress is the result of a search for something, anything, to find relief from the pain induced by one’s surroundings. On the final track “Cellar of Doors,” Walker screams, “All doors refracting doors!” to reiterate the concept of never-ending exits on “Armory of Obsidian Glass.” Throughout the record, the exit is illusive. We’re stuck in a continuous cycle of death and whatever may come next, all the while searching for an answer.

“I swallow it all,” Walker claims at the end of “Cellar of Doors” in not so much an act of surrender but a claim to whatever potential power remains. And in that final shriek, the music cuts like it has been sucked into oblivion.

— Samuel Argyle

Weeping Choir released last Friday via Relapse. Check out our interview with Spencer Hazard.

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