Reviewed: [June 2019]
Released [2019 Relapse Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
One of my all-time favorite albums is Brutal Truth’s 1994 outing Need To Control. The combination of spasmodic grind, caterwauling vocals, industrial clamor, electronic fits and utterly crushing heaviness on the band’s second full-length was nothing short of breathtaking. Its extreme metal heft meets ear-bleed noise – made all the more clangorous and concussive by its mechanically precise production – was also quite revolutionary for its time.
Maryland’s Full of Hell might not be quite so groundbreaking, given they are doing their thing a quarter-century later, but the band’s fourth and latest album certainly checks a lot of those same boxes. Despite a somewhat chintzy package, at only 25 minutes’ worth of music, Weeping Choir nevertheless is loaded with everything that made Need To Control so great. And though there is more of an electronic hue here, when Full Of Hell unleash, well, “hell” prepare to duck and cover.
“Burning Myrhh” opens things in a tidy two-minute hail of clattering drums, churning riffs and the shriek, scream and growl tradeoffs of frontman Dylan Walker and bassist Sam DiGristine. The black metally “Haunted Arches” is even more concise, delivering a minute-long burst of fury. “Thunder Hammers,” however, slows the temple to a quick-step march and builds the groove in Spencer Hazard’s beefy hooks.
The electronics kick in on “Rainbow Coil,” with its hissing squalor of static, feedback, spastic percussion loops and the odd screech of vocals. The rivet gun electronic drumming that plays it out carries over and makes a fitting intro and outro to the frenzied “Aria of Jeweled Tears” and its hurtling companion piece “Downward,” both of which blast away in a tooth-loosening minute and a half.
Then, here again, the band dramatically shifts gear, offering the heaving doom of “Armory of Obsidian Glass,” which at almost seven minutes long represents nearly a third of the album. The simple, repetitive riffs and slogging pace of “Obsidian” are draped in eerie layers of vocals, with Walker and DiGristine joined by Lingua Ignota – aka Kristin Hayter – who takes things on an operatic turn just as the song erupts for a surging close over its final minute or so. Of course, it is then followed by one of the album’s shortest, most brutal songs in the chugging death grind of “Silmaril” and its especially pukey tag-team vocals.
“Angels Gather Here” comes more from the Godflesh songbook with its pulsing, dub-like rhythm punctuated by actual drums, droning riffs and desolate tone. And as perhaps the album’s most Spartan tune, it is contrasted by one of the noisiest in the almost free-jazz freak-outery of “Ygramul the Many” and its squalling sax accompaniment. “Cellar Of Doors” then brings things to an abrupt finish with a minute of chugging and blasting that will no doubt leave you wanting more.
But Full of Hell have never been known to deal in mass quantities, with their longest album being their 2011 debut Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home, which clocked in at a Reign In Blood-like 28 minutes. And they have proven to be masters of efficiency, cramming a lot into what little space they have and always keeping one guessing with their sudden tangents and drastic stylistic shifts. So while Weeping Choir may not offer a comparatively long ride, it delivers more than enough sonic thrills and spills along the way to make it worth the while.