Full of Hell & Merzbow: A Review

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I recently traveled to Arizona, and upon my departure I began reading Our Band Could Be Your Life. I managed to make it through the first two chapters during my time spent on airplanes. The book is about the “indie rock” movement, bands that used a DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos and were not under corporate rule during the period of the 1980s and 1990s. The first chapter in the book was about none other than the seminal hardcore institution Black Flag. Interesting story, well written chapter. The story of Black Flag during the 1980s is largely the story of lead guitarist and de facto leader Greg Ginn’s relationship with the young, volatile Henry Rollins. The internet says that “hardcore music is generally faster, heavier, and more abrasive than regular punk rock”. Black Flag, along with Minor Threat and Bad Brains, are considered the “Big Three” of hardcore punk. Black Flag were also well known for confrontations with the police at their shows, and violence between performers and fans. In the 1980s, Black Flag were heavier, faster, and more brutal than punk rock had ever been. They also branched out the furthest from the hardcore of their day and have been cited as major influences through punk, hardcore, and metal since their inception as a band.

Fast forward to the present day. Chaotic genre changers Full of Hell enlisted the help of “legendary noise godfather” Merzbow for their first release on underground metal heavyweight label Profound Lore Records. Full of Hell are marketed by Profound Lore as a hardcore/grindcore unit. They have also released a slew of noise projects, plainly and effectively labeled FOH NOISE. Full of Hell have an impressive back catalog for such a young band; Merzbow may be the most prolific artist in noise music, with hundreds of releases to his credit. On paper, this collaboration makes a lot of sense. How are the results?

Full of Hell announce their intent on the opening three tracks of Full of Hell & Merzbow, which is to destroy everything in their path. Full of Hell are playing their tightest grind to date. I noticed immediately this album also has the “best”, or cleanest, production on anything Full of Hell related I have heard. “Burnt Synapse” is fast, fast, fast, until a brief breakdown occurs before the end of the track. Vocalist Dylan Walker makes use of both a high pitched grind shriek and lower death growls over these first opening tracks, for several listens I was convinced it was two different vocalists altogether. “Gordian Knot” is more of the same, an onslaught, with no quarter given. The first three tracks all come in at about or under one minute each. The album slows, momentarily, halfway into its fourth track and advance single “Blue Litmus”. Full of Hell use every weapon at their disposal on this album. After three and a half minutes of grind, “Blue Litmus” slows to a sludgy crawl. Full of Hell would be right at home in the fast bands playing slowly camp that was covered here on the Toilet. Full of Hell are not new to slowing the pace, but like the grind component, the sludgy, slowing down feels more confident. Full of Hell are playing at the peak of their powers here. “Blue Litmus” ends with a drawn out bellow from Dylan Walker, and dissolved into feedback as the next track “Raise Three, Great Wall, Bloodied and Terrible” begins.

“Raise Thee…” introduces Full of Hell’s noise component as well as Merzbow’s hand prints on this album. “Raise Thee…” opens with harsh static and feedback, and slowly introduces cymbals as well as distant, tortured vocals. Full of Hell succeed here, too. This is the moment where you begin to sense Merzbow’s contributions this project, and it works. Grind and noise are not too dissimilar in that they both aim to alienate the listener and offend the senses. While “Raise Thee…” continues the slow progression of the album, this is not a respite. This movement reflects upon the album’s cover as well; disembodied limbs and eye being lost to the ether. “Thrum In The Deep” finds a balance between the grind and slow crawl already played on this record, moving at a consistent middle pace. “Shattered Knife” opens on an album highlight, threatening, angular guitar riffs that are repeated but twisted throughout what is essentially a track long breakdown. The album’s shortest track, “Mute”, at thirty three seconds, somehow manages to showcase grind and noise before the beginning of “High Fells”. This track alternates between Full of Hell’s sludgy crawl and noise until it reaches what becomes the album’s peak. At 3:26, a slow riff changes the tune of the track, saxophone-like-noise creeps in underneath, and vocals repeat like the chorus of angels engulfed in flame. “Ludjet Av Good”, the next track and Full of Hell & Merzbow’s longest, opens with on a whisper. As it builds, a slow drum march appears from the vacuum. Haunting electronic squeals appear with long, drawn out vocals that are barely audible. On the album’s last track, “Fawn Heads and Unjoy”, Full of Hell remind us they play grind over the last bit of noise and a brief horn.

This is likely Full of Hell’s best work to date, as time tends to reveal these matters to critics, fans, and listeners. What doesn’t work here? First, this album is too short. It clocks in at twenty three minutes. I should mention, before you rush to your keyboards with your magic fingers to proclaim “Edward you FVCKING POSER this is GRINDCORE, duh”, that yeah, I get it. It is a grindcore record, with a lot of sludgy tracks and noise excerpts woven into it. Full of Hell are doing all that they do at the peak of their abilities, but there isn’t enough of it here. I wanted to hear more of it. This thing could stand to be ten or fifteen minutes longer, easily, and still remain interesting. I’d like to hear more of Merzbow’s imprint on the record, hopefully they follow this up with a sequel collaboration. Another issue I noticed was the placement of the second to last track, “Ludjet Av Gud”. Upon my first listen I thought the album was over when it began. As a standalone track, it’s excellent. It, however, is the least abusive track on the record, and its placement leaves something to be desired as far as sequence is concerned. There is the last, fast, violent track on this album but as a whole the album feels lopsided. Again, this is likely Full of Hell’s best work, but this is not a perfect album and there is room for improvement.

What was all that jive about Black Flag in the beginning of this review? As stated, Black Flag pushed the boundaries of hardcore and expanded its sound. While Full of Hell will likely never attain the influential, legendary status of Black Flag (it’s a different era and there’s an oversaturation of the market), Full of Hell are pushing the boundaries of hardcore and successfully combining disparate genres in a genuine way. While some hardcore veterans are crafting nearly perfect comeback albums, Full of Hell are shaping the boundaries of hardcore and grindcore into something outside of genre norms entirely. Given their youth and productivity, I imagine we will see even more progress in the near future. This is the new punk rock.

NO FLUSH



 

Full of Hell & Merzbow is available digitally November 25th, 2014 from Profound Lore Records.

Photo/album cover via

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  • “Our Band Could Be Your Life” is probably my favorite book.
    #Thrashfax

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      A Song of Ice and Fire (the Game of Thrones books), while amazing, kinda ruined me for reading since I finished them at the beginning of this year. I have not finished Our Band Could Be Your Life.

      • Nordling Beerhands Karhu

        I wanna call them the most overrated thing in fantasy and literature in a while, but I also want Martin to finish the damn next part already! So I have abstained from saying it, feeling that some “where the hell did that come from?”

        • Nordling Rites Of Edward

          Overrated or not, I love those books. 2017 or whatever? Ugh, eff that I want it now.

          • VV.

            I’m hoping to pick up A World of Ice and Fire soon.

          • Nordling Rites Of Edward

            I’m not familiar with that, is it an expansion?

          • VV.

            Basically a history book for that world. Sort of like the Silmarillion for LOTR.

          • Xan

            Did you ever read any of the “History of Middle-earth” books? They were 12 books that had material written by J.R.R. Tolkien in them but never finished (similar to The Silmarillion) by him. Christopher Tolkien edited them and released them. Some of them may not be the most exciting read in the world but it is very awesome to read if you want the entirety of lore of Middle-earth presented.

          • VV.

            I’m aware of them, but sadly, I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.

          • Nordling Beerhands Karhu

            And to think the next book ain’t even going to be the last. Martin’s going to die before he finishes it.

          • Nordling Rites Of Edward

            There are slated to be seven, and sadly I am inclined to agree with you. No one else can finish them. Eff that!

          • Martin is in good health, Bear-san.

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            But old-ish. If he takes ten years a book it’s 2027 until the last part comes out, will he be in good health then?

          • I recently lost my ability to see into the future.

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            Oh bother!
            I was really hoping you could help me out on this one!

        • Martin =/= Overrated. There are definitely better high/low fantasy authors out there though.

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            I do love the series myself but am in dire need of a plot twist of legendary frames, to keep interest. As far as adult/mature fantasy goes, Martin alright, but I feel he can’t really make it appeal to mature audiences without sex and blood. The dialogue isn’t really there, neither is the storytelling. Nevertheless I do eagerly await the next part.

          • You should really check out Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself, is the first I think) and Glen Cook (Black Company series). If you want some more gritty dark fantasy.

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            I will.
            Familiar with Sapkowski? That’s the style of storytelling/dialogue I prefer most. It wouldn’t be every young-uns favorite series even if the world in it wasn’t so harsh.

          • I haven’t, I’ll look into it because I’m about to finish that Joe Abercrombie series I mentioned and I wont have any new reads.

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            The witcher series is a fine place too start (and probably the only one in english) For some reason the second novella-collection remains still untranslated, even if the actual saga (after it, and the first collection is translated) has been translated mostly

          • Is the video game based off of it?

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            It’s a non-canonic continuation. All different stories, but the world is based on the books, as are most of the characters. But it has the Sapkowski stamp of approval.

          • Well then I’ll definitely have to check it out.
            http://splitsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/stevebrule.jpg

      • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

        btw, love the new name

        • Nordling Rites ov God

          Nordling for a day.

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            I’m Nordling every day! Count me in!

          • Nordling Rites ov Ellipsis

            Alright. But only for a day… 😉

          • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

            #NordlingRitesOv

          • I’m here for the party

          • Nordling Rites ov Pagliacci

            I’m in.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

            YES.

        • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

          Who knows who I will be tomorrow? #ToH4ADayErryDay

    • Janitor Jim Dvggan is #teamedw

      My favorite book that I’ve read in a long time is the Aerosmith biography Walk This Way. It’s a very eye opening book.

    • Scrimm

      I’ll have to look for that. I really liked the Black Flag era journals Rollins published, Get in the Van. I think I like the cd version better though. I think my favorite music book is Swedish Death Metal.

      • I have not read that one. I’ll check it out.

        • Rollins wrote some great stuff about bodybuilding, too, Joe.

        • Scrimm

          If nothing else the SDM book is worth it just for the book itself. Awesome looking book. Sorry I’m a huge book nerd.

        • Stockhausen

          I was going to ask if you had read that one, but Scrimm beat me to it.

      • Trailerpants ov Steele

        Murder in the Front Row was pretty good too.

      • more beer

        Get in the Van was a great read. Also check out John Joseph of the Cro- Mags. The Evolution of a Cro- Magnon Very interesting listen.(audio book)

        • Scrimm

          I’ll keep an eye out.

          • Virgil the Ghost Poet

            Lords Of Chaos was fascinating. And Chris Connely’s My Life As A Cock. The story of the Revolting Cocks was fun even though he slammed Uncle Al and Martin Atkins the two guys that gave him a career.

          • Scrimm

            I’ve read Lords of Chaos a few times the first half is a gripping read. Have not read the other, I’ll put it on my list.

    • Tyree
    • JWG

      I haven’t read any books about bands or genre movements in ages. The last few books I read that came out of the ‘music’ section were about Theory.

      I’ve yet to crack open Tony Iommi’s autobiography, for instance, but that is next on my list (even if I know most of the details already it’s probably worth reading from the source). Mostly because I got it as a gift and I’ll feel bad if I don’t ever get around to using it as intended.

      I will definitely add this one to the book list too.

      • It’s the best music biography I can think of – the section on the Butthole Surfers is worth the price of admission alone.

        • Max

          I was just gonna say that to Edward, if he still has the book! I remember reading it, getting up to the Butthole Surfers chapter and thinking “Okay, this is gonna be the juicy part.” I wasn’t wrong.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

            I do still own the book! I am expecting my working every moment of my life situation to change in the near future, I plan on doing some reading during my slow time I will read the rest of it.

    • Kim Jong Un Pardons A Turkey

      I just got done with Marco Pierre White’s ‘Devil In The Kitchen’ a little while back, finishing up ‘Heat’ by Bill Buford. I’m a complete sucker for books about and especially by chefs. Especially crazy badasses like Anthony Bourdain and Marco Pierre White. ‘Life On The Line’ by Grant Achatz is another favorite, though he’s hardly badass. Just insanely genius.

      • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

        I wanted to read, and somehow completely did not read, “The Devil In The White City” about the World’s Fair and a serial killer that operated beneath it.

        • I checked it out from the Library and didn’t even get a chance to open it before it was due : /

          • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

            Apparently it is quite graphic and horrific.

        • Kim Jong Un Pardons A Turkey

          Another Chicago-based book? They still have tons of books on the World’s Fair over there, haven’t read any of them though.

    • CT-12

      I’m in pretty far into Rex Brown’s book, pretty good but at the same time there are clear exaggerations. And also, no way in hell is there ever going to be any chance of a Pantera reunion (obligatory “no way without Dimebag” comment here) because he fucking lets loose on Vince so hard in that book, and a lot of it’s pretty unwarranted haha

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Okay I’m interested now, will listen to this later

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      Definitely worth a listen, and given its brief run time it is easy to do that several times.

  • Tyree

    Full of Hell are certainly pushing the boundaries for sure. Great write up Ed! Descend into the fucking void.

    http://media.giphy.com/media/7rj2ZgttvgomY/giphy.gif

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      Tyree, that is appreciated. Check this one out when you get some time!

      I still owe you Razor Sharp Daggers.

      http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7vtgqnzVg1r99f4t.gif

      • Man I hate that guy. Tacos LeBeef or whatevs.

        • God

          Shai ledouche

        • Tyree

          His face needs to be pressed hard on my belt sander. Grind that douche right off it face.

        • Scrimm

          Took the words right out of my mouth.

        • KJM

          Sleepy LaBeef

        • Kim Jong Un Pardons A Turkey

          Sheela D. Poop?
          Guy is a certified nutjob. Not as bad as Amanda Bynes, but also not in an entertaining way like Gary Busey.

  • Tyree
    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      I linked this in the article lol

      • Tyree

        Double the fucking filth.

  • VV.

    Nice write-up, E!

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      W, gratzi.

    • Scrimm

      Totally unrelated but I started fallout 3 again. what was the Lovecraftian place again?

      • Dunwich Building!

        • Scrimm

          Thanks Joe! I could have looked it up but I just thought about it as I was reading through.

          • VV.

            Sorry he beat me to it. I think there’s also an add-on quest where you can go to a creepy island or something. And a UFO in another one.

          • Scrimm

            Sounds fun. I’ll have to look for those.

      • I am about to start Fallout 3 again as well, then make my way to New Vegas. I also ordered Dead Space… I am prepared for a shit winter and quality gaming time.

        • Scrimm

          I’ve actually been playing through Dead Space as well.

          • I can’t wait to try it out. I’ve heard a lot of great things about it.

          • Scrimm

            There’s very little about it that is not great.

          • I am even more stoked now… Can’t wait

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            Worth anything?

          • Scrimm

            Oh for sure it is a classic.

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            The sequels? Have you tried them?

            (Just picked ot up)

          • Xan

            I was all set to play through Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4 but my PC decided to take a shit so I’m stuck on a laptop without the processor to even play an HD video. Xan is not a happy camper about this.

          • Scrimm

            oh man that blows.

      • i’m pretty sure that game is what came between a girl and me, years ago. no regrets though!

        • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

          I played and beat Fallout: New Vegas four times.

          • you have given me faith to get back into it. only got a few hours in and let somebody else borrow it. d’oh!

          • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

            I played it before Fallout 3 so it’s always kinda been “my” Fallout game. So entertaining, so much fun. I even played through all the expansion packs.

  • Nordling Beerhands Karhu

    Great write-up. How much/well has noise been integrated into this? Was enthusiastic, but Blue Litmus didn’t deliver the noise enough.

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      The noise is well integrated, but as mentioned in the review I didn’t feel there was enough of it. There are a couple of noise sections of tracks and a noise track on its own. This album would easily work at forty to forty five minutes.

  • Nice review, Ed. I think unfortunately this album falls into the trap of many of Merzbow’s collaborations (Klatter with Boris, Maldoror with Mike Patton, Merzdub with Jamie Saft, Mer Mar with Lasse Marhaug…) where for whatever reason it seems some of his own identity is lost. I can’t claim to like /every/ one of his solo albums but even those that I don’t enjoy have their own personality. It seems like on most of his collaborations it’s just noise for noise’s sake, and here most of it is buried under distorted guitars so as to be undetectable. It’s still a fun listen and I think it may even be Full of Hell’s best material in terms of songwriting but I was kinda hoping for more noizzzz.

  • JWG

    What are you doing posting at 7AM?

    And no, I don’t accept different time zones as an excuse. It’s too early to think of the world as anything but flat.

    And wet. And dark.

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      Incorruptible darkness >>>>>>>>>

  • Tyree

    Ed, listen to some Bastard Noise if you have not already.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huZyhPCtfK8

  • HessianHunter

    Rollins may have been in Black Flag the longest out of their singers, but I think it’s a stretch to say that their story is “largely” defined by him and Greg Ginn. I might just be sensitive about it because I wish more people would give props to Dez Cadena, like on this arguably proto-grind/noise track, Machine.
    http://youtu.be/eDBe0zLd7KM

    • Janitor Jim Dvggan is #teamedw

      I met Dez when I saw the Misfits last year. He signed my denim vest as well as Jerry Only.

      • Stockhausen

        He signed Jerry Only??

        • Janitor Jim Dvggan is #teamedw

          No, I got signatures from both Jerry Only and Dez. I phrased that terribly.

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      What’s up Hessian. What I was mostly referring to was the chapter in the book discussed, it did in fact focus mostly on Greg Ginn & Henry Rollins.

      • HessianHunter

        Ah, I misunderstood. Apologies!

        • Nordling Rites Of Edward

          No worries!

          When I was working on ideas for this, I was going to talk about how what was heavy in the 80s sounds like pop rock now but decided against it.

          • HessianHunter

            Well, most people’s perception of “heavy” music in current times is also pop music: Linkin Park, Disturbed, etc. The 80’s also had Venom, Slayer, and Black Flag in the underground, although they were of course harder to find pre-internet than, say, Full Of Hell is now.

          • Nordling Rites Of Edward

            I was going to make a comparison between Damaged (80s heavy) and something like Grave Miasma but it just wasn’t a fair comparison. Slayer does stand up to a lot of the heaviness of today I will admit. We (ToH) have had this discussion recently, but when people find out I listen to metal they almost always assume Metallica, and I generally don’t make an effort to correct them haha.

    • more beer

      Dez was definitely their best singer. It`s just that book was based on Rollins journals from his time in Black Flag. Dez was out of the band by then.

      • HessianHunter

        Right, I misread the article and though he meant Rollins was the story of Black Flag’s whole career, not just what’s in the book. Dez 4 Prez.

        • more beer

          Fuck yea Dez for Prez!!! He would do better than any of the politician`s we have at the present time!!!!!

  • Nice write-up Ed. I’m not a fan of punk, when we get down to it. I do however really respect a lot of the things Henry Rollins does. As far as Full of Hell goes, this track is better than some of the other stuff i’ve heard from them, but I’d like to hear these merzbow tracks. +1

    • Nordling Rites Of Edward

      Thanks BLVCKBEVRD. I just wanna dive into Berzmow now lol.

      • Yeah, a quick look tells me I didn’t realize that dude was so prolific.

        • Nordling Rites Of Edward

          It’s insane, he has released literally hundreds of full length projects, and does these crazy special box sets all the time, and works with other musicians like in this case.

          • Yeah, I’ve definitely heard some of his stuff and have no idea which of his projects, or even what era, they were from.

      • Virgil the Ghost Poet

        Stay away from the Porn CD that Merzbow ruined. Porn or Porn (Men of) is a band that has Billy Anderson on bass Dale on drums and I can’t remember the guitar players name (believe its Tim Moss). They are feed backed soaked awesomeness.

    • Janitor Jim Dvggan is #teamedw

      I love Henry Rollins. His poetry is awesome and his solo band is better than Black Flag is currently.

      • Virgil the Ghost Poet

        Rollins Band is my favorite band. Still list in to that shit a lot.

  • Stockhausen

    Great writeup, I haven’t given this album the attention I should. I have a lot of Merzbow to look into.

  • JWG

    Side note. Does anyone know the name of the artist who embedded an image of his cat in a track’s sound data? It seems like it ought to be someone in the Noise genre, just based on what that seems like it would do to the sound.

    I’ve been using the image for several years in one of my Lab examples (on data/metadata and electronic records), but I’ve completely forgot where I got it from…

  • Shit this is mean and heavy and so great. Thanks for the review, Ed-boy!

    • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

      Happy to do it ACFP, digging the name change today as well.

      I was waiting for you to pop in the comments so I could address it, lol.

  • Kim Jong Un Pardons A Turkey
  • I’ve been listening to this on Pitchfork Advance. This thing fuckin slays. This is why metal isn’t going anywhere.

    • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

      Metal isn’t going anywhere because albums like this are so good?

      • Metal isn’t going anywhere because artists continue to put out exception music, such as this and just about every reviewed album in the toilet.

        • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

          God it took me long to realize you didn’t mean metal’s evolution.

  • sweetooth0

    Did the review copy feature the second disc? I pre-ordered from Profound Lore and it comes with a second CD which is apparently more Merzbow dominated. I can’t see both discs only totaling 30min playing time.

    • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

      The review copy Toilet Ov Hell received from Profound Lore Records did not include the bonus disc. I would love to hear it though.

  • Tyreeing in Titty Fish

    Pete Sandoval dose not use triggers.

    #PeteSandovalFacts

    Edit: Wrong fucking post

  • FeelTheDarkness

    You know your hard core when you got the “bars” tattooed.

    • Nordling Rites Ov Edward

      One of the dudes in the video?

      • FeelTheDarkness

        No I meant me cause I am all about Black Flag.
        I dig when anybody talks about Black Flag.

        • more beer

          You are not the only one here with love for hardcore punk!

  • I’ll give this a listen, always had mixed feelings on these guys. On the older stuff, they seemed to hit you with some good stuff and go off meandering into these boring drone/dirge parts which would kill the vibe for me. I also remember the vocal delivery being a little weak.