Review: Full Of Hell / Nothing – When No Birds Sang
Moreso than collaborator Nothing—who continue on the trajectory most recently established by 2020’s The Great Dismal—it is Full Of Hell whose contribution to When No Birds Sing that is particularly illuminating. A band at an interesting crossroad, Full Of Hell have had an interesting two years since the release of 2021’s Garden Of Burning Apparitions. For as consistent as their release schedule has been for over a decade, its not surprising that after burning the grind candle at both ends, they’ve been branching into more disparate, often slower, sounds. 2023 saw a slew of collaborations that often slowed the tempo and played around with space and texture.
Their material this year began in March with Suffocating Hallucination, their collaboration with sludge favourites Primitive Man. The album was for Full Of Hell a direct continuation of their 2022 EP Aurora Leaking From An Open Wound, dense sludge and doom metal covered with their trademark acidic balm. This was followed by the more abstract collaboration with Gasp from late August. More glacial and interspersed with broad drone pieces, the record had a more muted reception but was another example of Full Of Hell articulating this musical crossroads they find themselves at. A band at an intersection of tempo and aggression, all while still trying to incorporate elements of their past deathgrind, noise and power electronics material.
“Rose Tinted World” is built around a descending, legato riff interrupted with bites of feedback reminiscent of “Crawling Back To God” with more harmonic interference. The samples of upbeat local newscasters giving way to overwhelming reports of 911 calls and warzone correspondence make for easily one of 2023’s best tracks, a song whose climax feels apocalyptic in a way so, so many bands fail to emulate. The extreme metal equivalent to “Exit Music (For A Film)”.
“Like Stars In The Firmament” has a gentle pace, a track of breezy melancholia driven by a neatly done guitar arpeggio that plays like Silver-era Jesu stripped of much of its distortion. Nothing’s approach to shoegaze is less of that swampy, waterlogged approach many others in the genre have; their records contain as much the DNA of early Biffy Clyro as they do Ringo Deathstarr. Big on melody, big on existentialist soundscapes.
The track has interplay between the sort of introspective, melancholic delivery found on a track like 2016’s “A.C.D. (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)” and an almost childlike, sing-song vocal styling—even quoting “Ring Around The Rosie” to seemingly underline the pairing. It’s an interesting choice, giving the airy and detached sound of theirs a sense of wryness and self-awareness while never “breaking character”, for want of a better phrase.
“Wild Blue” is a track mostly in the vein of an artist like Laurel Halo, but unfortunately is so linear it really doesn’t register as much beyond air. Pleasant, functional, but mostly inessential. “When No More Birds Sing” follows, a track that might feel relatively anemic, even underwritten at first—particularly compared to the earlier tracks—but I find it really interesting. For as soaring a soundscape it creates with its high legato cleans, it’s grounded and underlined with understated chugs of distortion. Makes it feel like something struggling to breathe, or being compressed by a big weight. The lyric:
“Tell me how sound escapes through twenty-thousand window panes”
is apt; it’s a track that seems light and underdeveloped but reveals this dichotomy of sound that’s at once transient and still fucking heavy.
The closer “Spend The Grace” is the track that feels most like a cohesion of Full Of Hell and Nothing’s sound, the song that sounds most like you’d imagine when reading the names involved. Even beyond the interpolation of soft, clean vocals and harsher, throaty vocals, its approach to melody is square in the middle of both projects too. It feels oddly lethargic in its delivery, however; less like a track deliberately written around its slower pace, instead it feels like it can meander at times.
In an interview with BrooklynVegan, Dylan Walker comments how;
“We’re meeting in the middle where it’s lush and beautiful, but also sad and ugly if you look closely at it.”
This comment elucidates the approach of a lot of both Nothing’s past material as well as the point that Full Of Hell find themselves at in their discography. It’s a record that walks this knife-edge between a sound that’s washed-out, weightless and indirect, and a sound that’s oppressive and forceful. If not a massive jewel in either bands discography, it still remains a very interesting release —a testament to both bands adaptability, longevity and future.