Full of Hell & Nothing
When No Birds Sang
ABOVE THE CURRENT
For a band that espouses such a hostile and seething musical approach, Full of Hell thrive on collaboration and community. Of the Ocean City, Maryland grindcore outfit’s 12 full-length releases, more than half comprise splits or collabs, including records with Japanese noise legend Merzbow and sludge duo The Body, as well as their team-up with like-minded Denver cacophonists Primitive Man from earlier this year (and that’s even before we get into one-off pairings like their song with HEALTH, the amazingly titled “Full of Health,” or Dylan Walker’s collaborative side-projects such as Sightless Pit). More often than not they find themselves paired with bands who opt for similar musical extremes, the end result often being something that broadens both artists’ palettes without tamping down on the chaos or piercing frequencies.
Every now and then, however, Full of Hell find themselves pulled in the opposite direction, as with their new record with Philly shoegazers Nothing, When No Birds Sang. To hear standout “Like Stars in the Firmament,” you might not even register that any grindcore band came within 40 feet of this project, its dreamy slo-mo drift among the most gorgeously layered and sedate pieces of music in either band’s catalog.
The six tracks that comprise the full 34 minutes of When No Birds Sang stretch both bands into new compositional terrain in addition to playing to each group’s strengths. Where opener “Rose Tinted World” adds a sludgy back end to Full of Hell’s shrieking noise shrapnel over the course of eight tense, queasy minutes, “Forever Well” builds up slowly from haunted ambience into a more spacious piece of music that converges into an eventual climax of soaring grunge, Dylan Walker’s venomous screams being the only obvious callback to his own band. And the instrumental “Wild Blue” carries no aural antagonism whatsoever, its atmospheric drift providing a brief respite from the heavier rock and metal sounds that surround it.
While a hybrid of abrasive and dissonant metal and shoegaze is the most obvious byproduct of this musical pairing, it doesn’t always present itself in obvious ways. The massive roar of the title track carries the emotional gravity and overwhelming beauty of Justin Broadrick’s best moments with jesu, whereas closer “Spend the Grace” builds slowly into a stunningly hazy and melancholy intersection between accessibility and searing menace. By the time the record comes to a close, the distance between the two bands feels less vast, creating something greater than the sum of its parts as they draw two seemingly opposing extremes ever closer.