Published May 15, 2019When it came time to record their new album, Weeping Choir — especially knowing it would follow their transcendent Trumpeting Ecstasy — Full of Hell knew they had to return to the sound they did best, the one only they can pull off: a masterful mix of grindcore, punk, noise, death metal and more.
Were it not for Ecstasy, though, the Maryland/Pennsylvania experimental grindcore act's latest might have turned out very different. The band took a step away from the noise elements their collaborative albums with Merzbow and the Body brought to their sound, which vocalist Dylan Walker says set the bar for their sound going forward and informed their approach for the new record.
"I think it was just a case of us doing just what we were interested in bringing at the time. It was very time-and-place with Trumpeting Ecstasy; having less on the electronic side was because we had just done those collabs with the Body," says Walker. "With Weeping Choir, we wanted to make a well-rounded record again, be conscious that we knew we had stepped back last time."
Stepping away from noise helped clear their heads and provided something more palatable for metal fans, but their joint LPs helped foster the collaborative spirit that's become an integral piece of Full of Hell's complex sound. While Weeping Choir isn't a fully collaborative album, it features numerous guest spots from members of Insect Warfare, Charles Bronson, Lingua Ignota and more.
"We were a little worried that the record was overloaded with guests, but that's the whole spirit of collaborating to begin with, so it was natural to just go with the flow. It's a lot of guest spots, but it's all friends and people that we really respect as artists," says Walker.
Collaboration isn't as common in metal as it is in other genres, but Full of Hell are leading a change. From Walker's point of view, mainstream bands haven't quite caught onto the idea, but he's seeing underground artists taking this approach more frequently now.
"There's just a cultural difference in the music communities. In hip-hop, it's so integral to the foundation of all of it. Even the approach to releasing music in hip-hop is completely different. I can't really say why metal isn't predisposed to do something like that," says Walker.
While musicians in others genre are increasingly releasing music in larger volumes, most metal bands are still adhering to the standard two-year album cycle — though it's becoming more common in certain circles of extreme metal to pump out new music at a more consistent rate.
"It's just because we have a lot of ideas in our heads. We started the band to make music and record music, and if we're not recording we feel like we're wasting our time. I don't know how a band can put out one record every few years and that's it."
Eagle-eyed fans will notice that Weeping Choir's album art is the inverted image of the Trumpeting Ecstasy cover; that's no coincidence. Walker says the new record is a companion to their last, and although he prefers to keep lyrics open to interpretation, the themes on the two records are connected.
"The record is definitely a sister record to Trumpeting Ecstasy. I wanted to aesthetically create the foil to Trumpeting, so Mark [McCoy] was super crucial. He's always the guy that kind of comes in and reads all of the lyrics and makes a true distillation of it in physical form. That in turn helps me kind of come up with an overarching feel to the whole record."
The vocalist says as time goes on with Full of Hell it's becoming more important to tie releases together thematically, though he tries to keep his lyricism purposefully vague. Walker prefers to keep things personal and leave his lyrics open to interpretation, relating his approach to bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra.
"I guess all I can say is that Trumpeting was like a bubble being popped in my personal life, and kind of like a very moment-in-time record just based on what was going on in the Western world. Weeping Choir is kind of all that's left in the wake of that; it's definitely meant to be a more sombre record," says Walker.
Full of Hell are now at a point in their career where demand for their music has gotten almost obsessive to some fans, but they wouldn't have gotten to this point without their hard-working attitude. They've become leaders amongst the new generation of death metal bands, but Walker, ever humble, knows it's possible for any band to do what they've done with the powers afforded to emerging artists via digital media.
"I don't think you need record labels or anything like that anymore, in that way," he says. Full of Hell have never stayed with a single label for very long, and while Walker says they expect to do a few releases with Relapse Records, it's unlikely they'll ever settle into one place.
"It's nice to do these sort of residencies on labels and that's how I've always viewed them — at least from our own perspective. I think because of the bands that we look up to, it would be a really natural progression to just start our own thing and put out our own records someday," says Walker. "Neurosis started their own label and they just put out all of their own albums now, so I think it would be a nice way to complete that circle.
"I don't think you need record labels or anything like that anymore, in that way," he continues. "DIY has more power than ever, because you have this amazing tool set with the internet. You can literally do every single thing you want to do by yourself and that was the only reason Full of Hell ever succeeded," says Walker. "Without the internet I don't know if any of this would be possible."
Weeping Choir comes out May 17 on Relapse Records.