Full of Hell and Nothing – When No Birds Sang (Closed Casket Activities)Monday, 20th November 2023
With so many collaborations under their belt, Maryland/Pennsylvania’s Full of Hell might as well be called Full of Help. Not a diss at all, in fact, it’s the opposite: Full of Hell knows who to work with and what it takes to bring out the best of both parties. This reviewer came to know the grind stalwarts back in 2014 when Full of Hell + Merzbow was released, and that record established the band as a force to reckon with in the underground. More partnerships came to fruition with The Body, Health, Primitive Man, and their most unlikely sonic co-architects yet, Nothing.
Full of Nothing materialized from a shirt released to benefit organizations supporting BLM back in 2020. Roadburn called next, and a special set featuring both bands under the same moniker graced the stage and the 20-minute set offered an embryonic peek at what they cooked together. When No Birds Sang starts out with a bang, as “Rose Tinted World” kicks the door open with Dylan Walker’s goblin screams and searing riffs. This track screams FoH until we get to the second half, where Nothing’s gentle and desolate strumming coupled with morning news samples give a sense of being overwhelmed with the world’s troubles; and the point where one’s mind snaps is perfectly encapsulated by the noise segment rounding up the song. Genius. “Like Stars in the Firmament” slowly creeps up to the listener as Domenic Palermo gently whispers “I don’t wanna die” while the song reveals itself as Ring Around the Rosie’s dessicated future self, tired of tomorrow and guilty of everything.
While the first two songs are distinct identities of both bands, “Forever Well” truly shows the two acts meshing together and the foreboding sense of dread coupled with devastating payoffs is amplified a thousand-fold as Spencer and Domenic’s caveman riffs intertwine with Doyle Martin’s e-bow wizardry. This record is notable for the lack of Hazard’s flying fretboard fury but it’s not detrimental to the entire record’s vibe at all. The man truly knows what riffs serve a song. “Wild Blue” is the album’s escape into the void while the title track is a rare ray of sunbeam in an otherwise cloudy and full-of-hail (heh) record mood-wise. The reverberating shoegaze shimmer of Nothing never fails to tug at heartstrings, but final track and debut single “Spend the Grace” yanks the beating cardiac muscle right out of your chest and stomps at it furiously. It’s a perfect ending to an equally beautiful and monstrous album made by two of the most prolific and soul-crushing bands today.
My only slight gripe about this record is that we didn’t get a Dylan Walker-Domenic Palermo vocal match-up. I wouldn’t miss a potentially harmonic pairing of Full of Hell’s Gollum shrieks and Nothing’s depressed whispers for the world. Here’s hoping that both bands have more to say together.