Noise music and chaotic hardcore should make for comfortable bedfellows, right? No less, the artist known as the most important figure in noise, Merzbow, collaborating with the hard-touring, up-and-coming Full Of Hell. The latter have always had elements of noise in their music, and have celebrated their move to Profound Lore Records from A389 with this jointly created full-length, following on from FoH’s ‘Rudiments Of Mutilation’, released last year. However, this carries on in the same vein as ‘RoM’’s full-frontal musical assault, and Merzbow’s input, rather than working in sync with the band and adding an extra layer or dimension to their sound, feels tacked on and interrupts the flow of the record. Full Of Hell may feel they are adding more strings to their (Merz-)bow here, but rather than a natural combination, if anything this record feels at odds with itself.
Both constituent parts of this record show the acts at their best; Full Of Hell creating havoc with their short, sharp blasts of blackened, raging hardcore and Merzbow putting his hand to the twisted and bludgeoning soundscapes that have seen him become so revered. However, as alluded to earlier, intertwined it makes this record feel disjointed and unnecessarily ramming square pegs into round holes for FoH to make a name for themselves in different circles. The opening four tracks of this record represent Pennsylvanian quartet Full Of Hell at their most pulsating and evil-sounding, but the momentum is stopped in its tracks by the Merzbow-created interlude ‘Raise Thee, Great Wall, Bloody and Terrible’, which uses fragments of the FoH vocalist’s screams in its harsh, bleak maelstrom of sounds. It’s noticeably longer than anything else thus far, and its elongated nature makes one think “Sure, this is cool, but when are the riffs gonna come back?”
As if nothing had happened, Full Of Hell’s full-frontal assault continues with ‘Thrum In The Deep’, thrashing through more hard-hitting aural assaults before arriving at the moment where the collaboration finally comes together to mutual benefit in the downcast, doom-mongering ‘High Fells’. Merzbow’s discomforting atmospherics surround the track in an enshrouding black cloud of misery, but this record zenith is almost cancelled out by the ensuing six minutes of not much happening at all, entitled ‘Ludjet Av Gud’. This largely empty passage contrasts with finale ‘Fawn Heads and Unjoy’, which sees Full Of Hell return to their rampaging best, verging on grindcore territory.
At twenty-three minutes in length, this is hardly the most arduous of albums to consume, but around ten minutes of that is wasted space for the purpose of ticking the boxes as a collaborative album. If the interludes were to be removed and this released as a Full Of Hell EP, I’d be hailing it as their best yet, as not only does this continue their rich vein of form from last year’s album, but also sees them sounding the cleanest they have yet, a crisper production sound bringing out the best in their instrumental barrage. It’s quite clear Full Of Hell are massive fans of noise, and to collaborate with one of the “godfathers” of the genre must be a dream come true. However, hardcore kids who have no knowledge of noise may find this alienating, and though Merzbow fans may appreciate this full-length, there are enough recordings (over 350) bearing his name for this to remain largely undiscovered by all but the most fervent of completists. While it’s a worthy experiment to have carried out for ‘High Fells’ alone, it largely yields mixed results, but the core Full Of Hell material present on ‘Full of Hell & Merzbow’ should please their burgeoning and steadily growing fanbase.
‘Full Of Hell / Merzbow’ by Full Of Hell & Merzbow is out now on Profound Lore Records.
Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)