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The Body and Full of Hell at Cambridge MA’s Middle East

Full of Hell
Full of Hell

If you were looking for a good spot to embrace your inner malcontent on a Friday night, Cambridge’s Middle East Upstairs was the place to be on May 15th. A five-band bill topped off by Portland-via-Providence doom-dealers The Body and Maryland grindcore experimentalists Full of Hell went straight for the throat and wasted precious little time doing it.

A banner reading “have a bad day” draped over an amp belonging to Boston’s Lunglust set the tone for the night, and a blast of the band’s fittingly dissonant if not wholly memorable brand of hardcore kicked things off. Fellow locals Human Bodies went for broke on atmosphere, cutting the lights entirely and performing by candlelight in spiked attire and leather fetish masks. The Boston trio both looked and sounded convincingly evil, even if their set tended to bleed together into one endless flurry of shrieks and blastbeats. Perhaps that was the point.

I Am Become Death vocalist Kyle Neeson’s effusive personality anchored his band’s energetic set, which was the best of the evening’s three local openers. He and the rest of the band threw themselves headlong into the performance, exhibiting some genuine, infectious enthusiasm. They were, after all, the only band I caught smiling on stage all night.

The mood in the room took a darker turn as The Body began setting up their veritable wall of amplifiers. Conversation in the front row came around to the subject of world’s loudest live bands; one fan contended that Swans held the crown, and guitarist/vocalist Chip King retorted that “they use the P.A. more” as he stacked up another cabinet. As the subsequent set would prove, The Body certainly deserve a stake in this conversation. They employ volume as an integral part of their live performances, working with the sort of literally skull-rattling low-end that turns the experience physical.

That effect was particularly pronounced in the compact, boxy confines of the Middle East’s upstairs wing, where the duo tore into a short but brutalizing set. King’s demon-roar guitar tones were punctuated by his tortured howls, while Lee Buford’s death-march drums trudged ever onward into the abyss. The duo conjured a truly hellish racket that stunned a packed-in crowd, confronting them with a 30-minute sonic apocalypse before concluding with an abrupt jolt into the looped voice of Memphis rapper Low Down Da Sinista, repeating “Once in a while, you might hear me cry / It’s not because I’m soft it’s because I wanna die.” The set felt shorter than expected, but who’s to say we could’ve survived much more?

Full of Hell were up last, seeking to match the intensity of their co-headliners through frantic chaos rather than monolithic slabs of sound. Whereas the crowd stood nailed to floor for The Body’s dirge-y tempos, they turned to a frenetically violent mass seconds after Full of Hell fired their opening salvo. The band takes a particularly vicious approach to its craft, augmenting a traditional drums/bass/guitar lineup with two tables’ worth of noise-generating devices to cast out additional sonic shrapnel. The result was a disorienting maelstrom that rarely gave anyone in the room a chance to catch their breath. It was naturally another short set, but packed plenty of punch to sufficiently cap off a misanthropic evening.

—Ben Stas

Lunglust

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Human Bodies

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I Am Become Death

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The Body

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Full of Hell

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