Full Of Hell - Coagulated Bliss (Cover Artwork)

Full Of Hell

Coagulated Bliss (2024)

Closed Casket Activities

If someone had said to you, 15 years ago, that one of the few truly extreme bands that had acquired both an army of fiercely loyal, unrelentingly supportive fans; and also a huge degree of critical acclaim, leading, in part, to some degree of unlikely crossover, then I doubt you’d have said “that’ll be a grind/noise band from Maryland/Philly with 22 EP’s/collab records/Splits and 5 LP’s in the coming decade and a half”. And if you did, then I’d be totally cool with it if you fancied giving me a heads-up on the upcoming Euromillions lottery numbers, because the odds are probably similar. But that’s the timeline we find ourselves in, folks. Full of Hell are almost a constant at this point, such is their prolific output, but it does feel like rather more of an event when they get around to releasing a full-length entirely of their own making. A distillation of a point in time for one of the most dexterous and consistently surprising bands of our time.

It’s going to be hard to review this record concisely. It is, as ever, baffling, dizzying, challenging and borderline absurd at points. Full of Hell don’t often rely on riffs, per se. They are far more comfortable wringing bizarre and unexpected textures and rhythms from their instruments. As a result, the tone, choice of instrumentation and production choices they make are occasionally as important as the songs themselves. That’s not to say there isn’t incredible songwriting skill here, because that is in abundance, it’s just not songwriting in a particularly conventional sense. But again, that should be applauded. That being said, there are songs on this record that do conform (after a fashion) to grindcore 101. Wild, rapid-fire riffing that is as madcap as it is aggressive, largely unintelligible vocals (albeit in the case of FoH, they come from three different people), frenetic yet technical drumming and structures that take the ‘shifting sands’ approach to ensure you constantly feel like you’re on the verge of falling overboard. Full of Hell can do that stuff unbelievably well. We know that. But their ace in the hole is the diversity of their abilities.

You can probably identify the more typical grind songs when you look at the track listing and track lengths: “Vomiting Glass” at 0:56, “Gasping Dust” at 1:09, “Doors to Mental Agony” at 1:36. But even the title track, at a distinctly brief 1:21 deviates pretty significantly from the template. Beginning, and hanging for a lot of the track on a kind of high-tempo version of a sludge riff, it has an undeniably catchy hard rock vibe to it, believe it or not. “Schizoid Rupture” similarly feels (other than the vocals) like it could have been birthed from a particularly nasty QOTSA session. Album closer “Malformed Ligature” also stands out, given it is 2-3 times as long as most of the songs on the record. And although it begins fading out, for the most part, before it hits the 3-minute mark, it does find a rather elegant denouement after the main body of the song fades out. I won’t spoil the surprise though.

It would be utterly remiss of me to not mention “Bleeding Horizon”. It sits, firmly as the centrepiece of the record, at track 6 of 12, with a runtime of 6:14. I wouldn’t typically lay so much focus on runtimes, but this single track makes up a quarter of the entire record and as such, it bears some weight for the album’s success or otherwise. If I’d heard the song independently, I’d say it was one part sludge, one part drone, one part DSBM and one part post metal. Note the lack of grind or even hardcore in that particular recipe. And yet, when you press play again (as you doubtless will), the first track (“Half Life of Changelings”) hits you right away with an opening riff that Fiddlehead or Militarie Gun would be more than happy with.

It’s a fucking ADHD-BPD nightmare of a record in the best possible way, basically. The thing that’s struck me more and more each time I’ve listened to the record is how completely incapable this band are of doing anything straightforward. And this is doubtless the reason that the chin-stroking brigade have elected to rep for them. Some people maintain the only true art is that which has never been done before or that is genuinely surprising or initially confusing. And you get that with this record. But you also have the benefit of a band who know all too well how to play to the more base, aggressive and nihilistic urges that fans of extreme metal tend to have. I suppose the reality of this record’s quality is to some extent in the eye of the beholder. I imagine there will be plenty of people who deem this to be a masterpiece. There will doubtless be others who feel rather the opposite. For me, it’s a very good record. An excellent one, in fact. But I do have to concede that I honestly don’t know if I’m going to like it more or less in 6 months’ time, for example. Either way, it’s a hell of a ride and I’d implore you to give the requisite 26 mins or so of your time.