Rudiments of Mutilation, the sophomore album by Full of Hell, to be released on June 11, is not an easy listen. It begins with harsh, piercing noise, slowly followed by wails from vocalist Dylan Walker and shambling, rumbling drums. An explosion of crusty blastbeats and hardcore riffs break the tension before the band delves deep into a downtrodden doom sound, with Walker’s voice channeling chaos all the while. This is intentionally ugly music—music that is designed to make you feel the worst of humanity. “We want to make really harsh, negative music that induces pain,” Walker said in a recent phone interview with SLUG. “It’s kind of beautiful in a way.”
Since releasing their debut album, Roots of Earth are Consuming my Home, in 2011, Full of Hell have been building a steady stream of momentum. The band has toured with the likes of Gaza, played SXSW, released numerous splits and have seen their fanbase grow larger and larger. In fact, the vinyl pre-order version of Rudiments of Mutilation sold out in less than a day. Walker is humbled by the response to his band, and is glad to see audiences reacting to its growth. “I think the jump from our first LP [to the new album] is rather large. As soon as we released the first album, I was kind of over it. I wasn’t overly proud of it, not because of what my bandmates had written, but more because of the vocal mix and the lyrics,” Walker says. This is part of the reason that the band has released new music so consistently: so they remain excited about their musical output, and are able to challenge themselves.
The beauty of pain and suffering is a strong theme throughout Rudiments of Mutilation, and a dichotomy that attracts many listeners to aggressive music in general. “It’s really cathartic to write negative music,” Walker says. “I don’t really feel like a negative person—I feel well balanced. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m able to use this as an outlet for that kind of emotion.” On this album, Walker challenged himself to delve into his own personal pain and release it through his lyrics. His experience finding his best friend’s body, dead from a drug overdose, helped shape his mental approach to songwriting on Rudiments of Mutilation. “It was the strangest feeling. It was the saddest moment of my entire life, but it was so beautiful and miserable. The only thing I could think of was what his mother would think and how awful it was,” he says. “That stuff definitely helped propel the album.”
Full of Hell’s sound is unequivocally ugly, and one of the key ways that they are able to create their unique sonic character is by incorporating harsh noise into their songs. “When we were forming the band, we had all these ideas to create a band in those areas of extreme music—powerviolence, grindcore and all that stuff—we were always fascinated by experimental electronic music,” Walker says. He namechecks Eric Wood of Man is the Bastard and Throbbing Gristle as influences, and it’s the elements from those musical endeavors that help Full of Hell stand out from their contemporaries in the increasingly crowded world of extreme music. “We thought, if we were able to incorporate that stuff, it would really open up a whole other world of sound in general—you aren’t limited as much, and there’s so much room to explore. We’re still just cracking the surface,” Walker says. The noise is incorporated much more fluidly into Rudiments of Mutilation than on earlier Full of Hell works, and adds to the painful experience that Walker and his bandmates are trying to create.
Another key aspect that sets Full of Hell apart is their intense live performance. I experienced the band live at Raunch Records in Dec. 2011 and was floored by their energy. These four fresh-faced kids looked pretty far from threatening before they began their set, but as soon as Walker unleashed harsh noise onto the crowd and the band began pummeling their instruments (I legitimately thought the drummer was going to hurt himself), all jaws hit the floor. “All the bands I liked growing up were extremely intense, and I guess I just wanted to be like them and take it to another level,” Walker says. “I don’t like people like G.G. Allin, who would just straight up throw feces and attack you, but I like to be completely floored by the energy of a band. I don’t think we’re the most energetic band, but I want it to be intense when you watch us.”
Full of Hell’s music is not always easy to listen to, but beyond the ugliness of its surface lies a beauty. The power of expression and the ability to channel raw emotion transcend the music’s bleakness, allowing listeners to connect to something, to feel and to revel in their own misery. You may need to dig deep to find it, but there is a lot of pleasure to be found in Full of Hell’s sound. Experience it for yourself when they play The Shred Shed with Seven Sisters of Sleep, Cult Leader and Rile on June 13.