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In the digital age it can become difficult to discern band from band yet still remember who the hell is who after a few months. The age of Bandcamp/SoundCloud/blogspot/Mediafire/whatever-the-hell-you-use has made the conception of a band several steps shorter. But there are still ones that grab you by the throat and never let go.
U.S. East Coasters Full of Hell have had their hands around the throats of listeners for some time and have only gotten better from album to album. The band has always incorporated elements of sludge, drone, noise with a heavy, grindcore base. Their latest blast was the collaboration with noise master Merzbow (Masami Akita) that was one of 2014’s best albums.
Currently the band is prepping to release another collaboration with The Body and demolish Europe in September. So Christopher Luedtke got in a quick word with vocalist Dylan Walker.
(((o))): Perhaps this is all personal perspective, but I grew up with the early 2000s hardcore scene, as well as a lot of, I guess what one would call “scene” bands at the time. There seems to be three kinds of bands: those that forcibly evolve, those that don’t, and those that naturally do. Full of Hell, to me, falls into the last category. Nothing’s ever felt forced or generic. Even listening to the records chronologically, everything comes off naturally. What attributes to this?
Dylan: Well, I thank you for saying that it seems to come off naturally. We can’t really tell how it’s going to hit people when they hear it. I think I can attribute any kind of change in our sound over the last few years to our interest in challenging ourselves and a growing interest in many different kinds of music. It just seems boring to try and write the same record over and over even if you say some level of small success with a certain sound. We learn from our mistakes and learn from past experience, whether it be from recording, writing or even what works in a live setting.
(((o))): Each album has felt like an end of days for you guys in terms of intensity. Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home was heavy and hard hitting. Rudiments of Mutilation was a noisy, flesh tearing exercise in sorrow and harrowing senseless violence. Yet the Merzbow collaboration rises above that on both discs. It’s like you never peak. Have you ever felt like you’ve outdone yourselves?
Dylan: This is definitely just us learning our instruments and learning how to write and record together. I think it’s really challenging and full-filling to write and record a full length album, but it’s also daunting. Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home was the first LP any of us had ever been a part of, and largely our first semi “professional” recording experience. There was a lot to learn and we still have so much to learn. I look back on that recording and wish I had known this or that, knowing that my process and final product would have been easier and better, but that is a natural part of this experience. I think we fear a final peak, like some kind of plateau, so we’re always kind of prodding at the boundaries of what’s happening, and hopefully we can continue to push ourselves to be a better band and better musicians.
(((o))): Looking back, pieces like Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home are pretty slow, even sludgy in comparison to the newer material. As such, and in reflection, the degree to which the band wears its influences such as Grief and Dystopia is impressive because Full of Hell has a very stand out identity. Duplication is said to be a form of flattery for the creator(s), but there aren’t any other bands managing to pull off your sound.
Dylan: Again, thank you for saying so. We always wonder how our influences will translate in real time, and I think Spencer [Hazard; guitar/vocals] has always tried to be conscious of the fact that blending things together in certain ways could sound awkward or forced. I can’t even say where we really fit on a specific spectrum, because by the time any kind of clear idea comes around we’ve kind of started to push in another direction. I also think that while our sound might feel unique to some, it’s certainly not. I am proud that our influences show, and I am proud to represent artists and bands that have inspired us and many times have done it better than anyone before or after them.
(((o))): Lyrically I think a lot of newcomers to Full of Hell would expect something needlessly gory or violent concerning food for thought. Pieces like that have been served up in songs like ‘Throbbing Lung Fiber’, which, whether intended or not, serves as a fine piece on the expression of the vicious violence that one can encounter at any unfortunate moment, and equally sarcastic with its ending “God bless” lyric. Yet there’re still direct philosophies in the work. ‘Raise Thee, Great Wall, Bloodied and Terrible’ (a reference to the Psywarfare RSD split) that comes off as quite Nietzsche. Are there any concrete philosophies that the band embraces?
Dylan: It’s hard as a lyricist in a metal band to avoid sounding contrived. While we write, I try not to tell myself that the record needs to be like this or that, that it needs to be darker or more direct or anything. I also feel like in extreme genres like this, the lyrics are almost like a placeholder, and there’s not a lot of weight put on them. I’ve tried to keep concrete ideas that matter to me and pertain to my existence in this world firmly in the music, because I believe that that might be the only way to even attempt to keep things genuine in that department. I’ve enjoyed reading existential philosophy, but the only concrete idea you could take from the lyrics is that the world is harsh and it’s full of cold human beings that should be feared. Everything else is fluid thought.
(((o))): Hardcore is a scene that evolves and reverts frequently. However the scene feels like it has really opened since Full of Hell entered earlobes. Suddenly more people know about Prurient, Merzbow, and Dystopia. And the influences have begun to bleed everywhere. Was it ever your intention to bring these things to the forefront?
Dylan: We were just fans of weird music. Growing up listening to Hydra Head bands and artists, it seemed like the peak of achievements to be in a Hydra Head band. They always thought outside of the box, everything was extreme in a million directions, and the passion was intense. So, I don’t think we’ve ever been making an effort to get punks or normal kids into noise. I think it’s easy to tear down a band you perceive to be a gateway to an inclusive culture for people that previously knew nothing about it, but I’m truly happy if we’ve affected anyone’s perception on things or opened them up to new sounds. That’s what it’s all about.
(((o))): The internet has certainly evolved the shape of genres and how people pay attention to them. Genre popularity has a shorter popularity span than it used to have, probably due to the ADHD of the listeners. And there’s a genuine concern with throwing everything into a blender and just hitting the puree switch. Full of Hell comes off as more focused, but still ever changing, and without overdoing it. How do you personally respond to bands doing this? Is it overcompensation or perhaps a high reached when one/many is/are excited about too many genres?
Dylan: I can’t really say why a band might feel the need to cross genres or blend several all at the same time. For this band, we just tried to imagine the kind of band we wished existed, and have always hoped to create something like that, hopefully keeping it relatively organic feeling. As far as our response to bands mixing things up, I think we naturally respond positively. I like exploration like that, it’s important.
(((o))): It’s difficult to pin Full of Hell one exact genre. On one end there’s a lot of DIY hardcore/punk influence, and yet there’s plenty of noise, plenty of grind and still plenty of drone/sludge moments. Is there anywhere that the band feels most at home?
Dylan: We’ve always basically operated as a DIY hardcore punk band. We are proud to have booked our own tours for so long and have made so many friends all over the world, to have really had a personal hand in building every little thing about our band from the ground up. I think that we feel most at home when we are intimately involved with every detail and we find it kind of strange when a band doesn’t care about their artwork, or if a band is not closely involved in their visual aesthetic as a whole. Even more strange is it when a band doesn’t even have a decent fan base but refuses to operate at a DIY level to make those connections, and drifts through endless shitty tours booked by an even shittier agent that doesn’t care who books the shows, as long as they will find a way to pay that extra money for their commission. If you truly care about your work as an artist, you must know and love every detail in the process. You live it!
(((o))): Some believe you’ve become more inaccessible throughout records. Each piece is a lot more noisy, faster and heavy, yet I find myself more on board with the band each time. Are there ever moments where you want to shatter listeners and truly make them reconsider stances on the band or record?
Dylan: I don’t think so. While I would agree that the band has become more inaccessible in certain ways, I also fully understand why you might be more interested and enthused with the material as it goes along. Like I said earlier, I think we continue to learn about ourselves and our music, and we continue to push to make better records. I feel like we’re only starting to crack the surface on what we could make, so from my standpoint, what you say makes perfect sense. I guess you could say that when we work on projects that are more noise based, sometimes we want the sound to hurt. We know going in that the people that can’t stand the noise aspect of the band are going to flat out hate it. That’s kind of refreshing.
(((o))): Thou and The Body put out two collaborations and managed to come to a crossroads with their sounds. What can you, or rather, will you tell us about he collaboration? Is there going to be a domination of one band over the other? Or is there going to be a treatment akin to the Sister Fawn piece?
Dylan: We approached the Merzbow collaboration in a particular way that some people didn’t really follow or agree with, but that we’ve always stood by and remained proud of. For the Full of Hell / The Body collaboration, it’s more akin to what you might imagine a true singular collaboration would be like. It’s a full mesh of both bands and I can’t say at all which band has the more dominant sound on the record. It was very exciting to make. As a huge fan of The Body, I was so thrilled that they had even suggested it. I can say that it turned out exactly as I’d hoped, and even exceeded my expectations in many ways. I really can’t wait to release it.
(((o))): There’s a definite feel of over-arcing horror that feels present piece by piece. It’s almost like the band has shifted from a personal Edgar Allen Poe horror to something Lovecraftian. As the sound gets bigger and more distorted, so does the looming darkness of the records. It’s like you broke out of the suffering Cask of Amontillado as a Shoggoth. Has this ever felt intentional or is it just part of the growing process?
Dylan: I love that comparison. It’s really funny, because I’m a huge fan of both writers (not unique in our world, at all, I know) so I can really appreciate that metaphor. I would like to think the narrative, both sonically and lyrically, has progressed to something a little more horrifying over time. We’ve been writing and playing together for a few more years now, so I would hope that the music would mature along with our relationships with each other from a musical standpoint. I think as we grow, we are feeling more of a pull towards something denser each time. As I’ve said, we are still kind of pushing at the edges to find where we actually fit.
09/17 – Incubate Festival (solo show)
09/19 – Amplifest | Porto,PT *+
09/20 – The Exchange | Bristol,UK*+
09/22 – Hope and Ruin | Brighton,UK*
09/23 – Birthdays | London,UK*
09/24 – The Vault | Swansea,UK*
09/25 – Temple of Boom | Leeds,UK*
09/26 – 13th Note | Glasgow,UK*
09/27 – Stuck on a Name | Nottingham,UK*