We Talk “Weeping Choir” with Full of Hell Guitarist Spencer Hazard + Band Releases New Single
In the nascent decades of the 21st Century, few groups can yet claim a catalog even half as prolific as Maryland’s bizarre and ferocious deathgrind/powerviolence innovators Full of Hell. Formed only ten years ago in Ocean City, the outfit’s idiosyncratic brand of grinding, noise-ridden death metal and consistent balance of underground aesthetics with sonic professionalism have gained them a cult following in the extreme metal world. Though the group already has a flabbergasting 28 releases in their roster, their scheduling for full-length albums more closely resembles a typical band, with a new studio record completed every two to four years.
Thus, the recent announcement of Full of Hell’s upcoming fourth full-length Weeping Choir generated a flurry of excitement among fans and genre connoisseurs alike, the band coyly teasing its release with a meticulously curated countdown conducted via their social media. One of the group’s greatest strengths lies in their ability to present a reliable yet constantly evolving sound that changes markedly between each release; thus, the prospect of this brand new full-length came as welcome news to those craving strange new experiments into dissonance and distortion.
Recently, I had the honor of speaking with Full of Hell guitarist Spencer Hazard about several topics concerning Weeping Choir. Seeking to understand more about the creative process behind its composition, I inquired about its inception, its manifestation, and its role within the greater context of Full of Hell’s extensive discography. In addition, we discussed Full of Hell’s legacy, the new techniques and strategies they’ve learned through the years, their upcoming album cycle, and -- most importantly -- the inspirations behind their constantly shifting approach to creating novel and unsettling music.
Full of Hell released "Armory of Obsidian Glass" today as a new single, see below.
As of 2019, it’s been one decade since Full of Hell was officially formed -- what big things about the band have changed, and what’s stayed the same in that time?
Obviously we’ve gotten more popular, and I mean we have peers who you can see it’s gone to their heads, but honestly for us as individuals it still feels like we’re a local band even though we don’t play local shows.
So you still have that DIY vibe to you.
I think that definitely shines through in your approach, especially in the way that you produce so many splits and demos and the like. So how do you decide when to make a new full-length album as opposed to a split or a shorter release?
I think it just depends on how we’re feeling. We don’t really set out like, “oh we need to write a new LP or blah blah blah whatever,” it’s just whenever the time feels right. But with the splits too… when we were doing the Nails split, we were also at the same time writing Trumpeting Ecstasy, so certain songs were supposed to end up on one thing but ended up on another because we’re like, “oh this song doesn’t flow as well.” But we never set out like, “oh we need to write an LP" -- we write songs because it’s fun and that’s why we write so many.
That’s a good attitude to have. How would you compare creating music collaboratively, such as on a split, versus doing a project that’s just Full of Hell, just the four of you? What’s the difference in approach, if there is one?
It’s hard to articulate; obviously with a solo release we’re gonna push ourselves harder because, you know, it’s a piece of music that’s representing just us. Compared to like a split; it’s not to say that a split is just a throwaway thing, but it’s only like five minutes of music, a little piece that’s for the band compared to an LP where we gotta sit there and concentrate on how we present it. Whereas a split is a new little taste of music, and here’s a band we like on the other side: you may have heard of them, you may have not. Because of course, we’ve done splits with Code Orange Kids and Nails, but then we’ve done splits with more obscure bands like Intensive Care or Calm the Fire, an old band from Poland. And with the collaborations, every time it’s been a completely different vibe as well. With The Body collab, that’s just like us hanging out, having fun in the studio like, “oh this idea’s cool, let’s put it with this.” Whereas the Merzbow one was very intimidating, because he’s such a legend.
How was your songwriting approach, perhaps even your thematic approach to Weeping Choir different than with Trumpeting Ecstasy? What are the big tonal shifts this time around?
I think any way we write, it’s gonna come out like us writing it. Even when we put a record together we don’t set out to be like, “oh we a fast song, then we need a slow song,” it just kinda flows and then certain riffs can morph into a fast song or a slow song depending on how we structure it together. But I feel that comparing Trumpeting to Weeping, with Trumpeting I was definitely more inspired by death metal. We’ve always been inspired by death metal -- we’re named after an Entombed song -- but that’s all I was listening to: death metal, deathgrind, stuff like that. With Weeping, I kinda want to reel it back and take aspects from every record we’ve ever done and try to combine it together. That’s why there’s longer songs, and more like hardcore parts, but still plenty of death metal riffs and straight-up grind and powerviolence stuff.
Well then Weeping Choir will be like a retrospective, a ten-year anniversary of sorts. It’s a consummate representation of Full of Hell that says, “this is what we’ve done, and this is what we are right now.”
Yeah. And also, the collaborations helped us learn how to manipulate the studio as another member of the band, or another instrument. That’s why Weeping has gotten better at taking a song like “Angels Gather Here” with an electronic beat, where we arranged the song around that. We didn’t really learn how to do that until The Body collab. For Trumpeting, we had the title track which was programmed and built together, and you can tell we were still kinda learning, where with “Angels Gather Here” we got it down -- we knew exactly how to manipulate the track the way we wanted it, and that sort of thing.
About your experience in the studio: did you take any big risks or try any new experiments this time around?
Not necessarily, but as for this recording experience altogether, Kurt definitely pushed us a lot harder than he did on Trumpeting. I’m not saying he was like, “oh whatever, that’s fine” for Trumpeting, but for this one he was definitely like, “do it again, you can do it better.” So he was actually taking a role in the producer seat this time.
Which song on the record was your favorite to record, and which is your favorite to play live?
My favorite song to record and to perform live is "Silmaril." I don’t know, I don’t read Lord of the Rings. I feel like it’s that one because on the record, “Armory of Obsidian Glass” which is like one of the more long, thought-out, epic songs we’ve written, is juxtaposed with "Silmaril," which is one of the dumbest most straightforward death metal songs I’ve ever written.
How has creative process changed towards your material over the last ten years?
I feel like it’s changed because we’ve all gotten older. When I first started writing this record I was living in Philadelphia, so I was two or three hours away from Dave; we couldn’t practice twice a week like we used to, we only practiced once a month. I’ve always been the primary songwriter in the band, but it’s still different sitting there in your bedroom writing with no drums or anything to it, you know? It’s a different technique, experience -- so that’s the way in which I feel a lot has changed with writing this record. Adult shit has gotten in the way, because we only practice once or twice a month.
You guys have an upcoming tour with Primitive Man. They’re one of the slowest bands out there, and you’re definitely one of the fastest -- how did you guys get in touch and put that together?
We’ve known Ethan at least since 2010 or 2011 -- we played a basement years ago with Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, so that’s where we first became friends. I think we’ve played some of Primitive Man’s earliest shows, and we’ve known Jon [Campos] the bass player for years. He’s originally from Wyoming, so we always used to play with his old band Reparture. So when they formed Primitive Man we always talked about doing tours together. But I think even those bands have elements of stuff that complement each other, because Primitive Man will have a faster, like black metal-ish section, and we’ll have super slow songs, so we don’t really look at it like that, we’re mainly looking at it like, “we’re these extreme bands.” And we’re also on the same label, so that’s why it’s with them and Genocide Pact – and we’ve had experience with Genocide Pact’s other band DoC [Disciples of Christ], we did like a month-long tour of Europe with them in 2013 or something like that. So we’ve always looked at these older label showcase tours from the 1990s and we’ve always wanted to build something like that.
And finally, looking into the near future, what are some of the major goals you hope to see Full of Hell achieve during the record cycle for Weeping Choir?
As any band, obviously I hope people like the record; I don’t necessarily expect people to, but I hope so. I don’t know, same goals that we always have: tour as much as possible, try to play new places, try to play places we haven’t played in a long time. We basically have a world tour booked for this record, because it goes full US tour, European tour with The Body collab shows, and a South American tour.
Sounds like you guys are gonna be busy.
Indeed, I think it’ll be a great year.
Weeping Choir releases May 17th via Relapse.