Extremity is the primary concern of American grindcore band Full of Hell. If this somehow wasn’t evident in their unforgiving fusion of some of the most oppressive and ugly genres that the world of experimental music has to offer, including deathgrind, powerviolence, sludge metal and noise, the collaborations pursued by the band across their most recent handful of releases should have made this more than apparent. When not joining forces with other extreme metal bands on split 7″s, such as on their joint EP with Californian powerviolence outfit Nails from last year, the group has recently set their sights on partnering with experimental artists and incorporating their definitive stylings into the brand of relentless metal and punk music associated with the Full of Hell label. Beginning with their 2014 collaboration with Japanoise auteur Merzbow, which was succeeded by last year’s combined effort with avant-garde metal duo The Body on One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, Full of Hell simultaneously heightened their recognition within the music community at large, whilst also establishing themselves as a grindcore outfit who were willing and able to expand their sonic scope beyond the genre’s archetype. The group’s latest endeavour, Trumpeting Ecstasy, sees Full of Hell returning to the studio alone, with this release being their first solo studio album since their 2013 sophomore record, Rudiments of Mutilation. As such, the metal outfit revisits the rather typical grindcore stylings to have featured on their pre-collaborative material, but that’s not to say that Trumpeting Ecstasy shows Full of Hell completely returning to their comfort zone either. Indeed, although this new album doesn’t aim for the cataclysmic collisions of various styles that can be found on Full of Hell & Merzbow and One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, the band instead pursues a compositionally diverse style that nevertheless functions within their usual grindcore framework. The blaring guitars, speaker-busting bass, blast beat drumming and wailing vocals typical of Full of Hell’s blend of extreme metal and hardcore punk are just as pervasive as ever, but the group strives for a much more detailed and substantial style of songwriting that makes for a record that is arguably just as audacious as their recent collaborations, albeit in a more subtle manner.
Across its succinct 23-minute runtime, Trumpeting Ecstasy sees Full of Hell blister through interlaced passages of unrelenting brutality, with each of the album’s 11 brief tracks seamlessly bleeding into one another, in true blue grindcore fashion. Not only this, but given the through-composed songwriting style featured consistently across the tracklisting, it would be easy to view Trumpeting Ecstasy as one continuous onslaught of musical misanthropy. Indeed, certain songs take such drastic and abrupt compositional turns at points that there is often more of a sense of a cohesion between tracks rather than within them, but this simply works to benefit the deliberately disorientating nature of Full of Hell’s extremity. Grindcore is never a genre to waste time, with songs seldom exceeding a minute in length, with the exception of maybe a grand, tension-building closing track, whilst an album itself will blitz past like a musical mayfly, rushing to get as much done as possible in the short time it has. Trumpeting Ecstasy is no exception to this rule, with the opening cut, Deluminate, galloping out of the gate as soon as the introductory spoken word excerpt of German screenwriter, Werner Herzog, lamenting the repugnant misery of nature finishes. This song surely stands as one of the more archetypal examples of a grindcore track on the record, but that’s not to say it isn’t performed with the flair that has made previous Full of Hell projects so captivating. The skirmish of discordant guitar chords crashing against the cascades of shrieked vocals and back-breaking blast beats perfectly exemplifies the primitive, hellish soundscapes crafted across the entirety of the group’s output, which is starkly reflected in the lyrical allusions to society being “a blister on the skin of the planet” and humanity “a pustule on the face of the Earth”. The dying growls of Deluminate give way to the dissonant riff that introduces Branches of Yew, a brief barrage of blazing blast beats and crushing, crusty riffage, with intermittent accents peppered throughout the track that ceaselessly hit the listener with bloody-knuckled left hooks, before breaking out into Bound Sphinx. This cut, in particular, displays Full of Hell at perhaps their most cohesive, with the punctuated and sometimes syncopated rhythms of Dave Bland’s destructive drum work remaining permanently on point. Meanwhile, the pealing walls of thunderous guitars show no signs of breaking; that is until the song’s sludgy outro section, wherein the grinding bass takes the helm, as the guitars descend into a cacophony of screeching feedback. The Cosmic Vein sees Full of Hell infuse their metallic hardcore influence with passages of white noise and a transition of tapped triplets, whilst, on some of the especially fleeting cuts, like Digital Prison and Fractured Quartz, the band plays with off-kilter rhythmic phrasings that grip the listener to the abrupt twists and turns taken on these short tracks. Ultimately, as much as Trumpeting Ecstasy pertains to a relatively rigid grindcore formula on the surface, the compositions themselves are actualised with an admirable amount of variation that makes for never a dull moment across the album’s ephemeral duration.
Although Trumpeting Ecstasy is Full of Hell’s first non-collaborative full-length project since Rudiments of Mutilation, the group is still sure to bring in guest help to aid in the variation across the record. The most prominent outside force across the entire album is none other than Kurt Ballou, founding guitarist of metalcore torchbearers Converge, at the mixing desk, who undoubtedly captures the ferocity of Full of Hell’s performances with pinpoint precision, and channels it into a punchy production style that makes for the outfit’s heaviest and most immaculate-sounding record thus far in their career. The other outside help comes in the form of a selection of guest vocal performances from some significant names within the metal community and beyond. Crawling Back to God sees Full of Hell put greater emphasis on their multi-tracked vocals than perhaps any previous song of theirs, but it’s easy to understand why this is the case, considering the song features a guest appearance from vocalist and guitarist from Boston-based post-metal band Isis, Aaron Turner. It must be said that the introductory riff of Crawling Back to God reeks a bit too heavily of a Morbid Angel influence, but the hulking heaviness of the song, as the band mechanically churns out consistently crushing death metal riffs, perfectly accompanies Turner’s gritty growls. Easily the most enthralling feature on Trumpeting Ecstasy, however, is the appearance of sadomasochistic singer-songwriter Nicole Dollanganger on the title track, which is also, rather appropriately, the only song on the album wherein Full of Hell completely let loose their experimental side. This song is introduced as a harsh noise piece, with a blaring march of brittle distortion accompanying the beautiful, dreamy singing of Dollanganger, which is performed in an almost lullaby-like fashion that ultimately amounts to being utterly unsettling and sinister when set against the walls of static. The disturbing atmosphere is completely shattered as the rest of the band enters, with the rumbling distortion assuming a rigid rhythm that is integrated into the industrial drumming, only to once again devolve into a clanging cacophony of crescendos to round the song off. Ultimately, the personnel that Full of Hell indulge in on Trumpeting Ecstasy offer more than some simple star power for those who will recognise these names in the album’s liner notes, rather the band’s collaborators are incorporated into their songwriting style with a level of skill that one will likely have come to expect, given the success of their undertakings with Merzbow and The Body.
Even at their most experimental, Full of Hell’s mission statement has never been to reinvent the metal wheel, rather they have pursued new means of attaining the same end; extremity. In this sense, as much as Trumpeting Ecstasy follows the tropes of grindcore to the letter, it is nevertheless successful in reaching the extreme heights of the band’s less conventional material through sheer compositional chops and a keen ear for the incorporation of influences from extreme genres that don’t necessarily fit within the metal and punk paradigm. Put simply, Trumpeting Ecstasy is extreme metal done right, and the results it yields are of a standard that only a band who have explored territories of extremity as thoroughly as Full of Hell could attain.
The Vinyl Verdict: 8/10