Review: Full Of Hell ‘Coagulated Bliss’

Around two-thirds of the way through Full Of Hell’s headline set at Plan B in Malmö last September, vocalist Dylan Walker made an off-hand, but rather amusing comment, ‘This one is our pop song’, he wryly drawled before the band burst forth into Reeking Tunnels, one of the most notable tracks from their previous ‘solo’ album Garden Of Burning Apparitions.

Full Of Hell ‘Coagulated Bliss’ Artwork
Full Of Hell ‘Coagulated Bliss’ Artwork

Notable, because it was indeed Full Of Hell’s most poppy song at that point; a track centred around a catchy riff and a big hook of a chorus. It still had plenty of the sonic intensity that they are known for, but it stood out massively amongst the rest of the album’s material.

That ironic comment would now appear to be something of a premonition. Coagulated Bliss is an album packed with, by their relative standards, pop songs. And they really know it. The album’s blurb makes explicit reference to how their collaborations with Nothing and The Body have given them an understanding and appreciation of how to utilise pop songwriting. I’m sure there is quite the argument to be had about how sludge terrorists The Body quite fit into the historical canon of pop music, but I digress…

From the opening chords of Half Life Of Changelings, you know this album is going to be something different. Even though the track quickly moves into familiar grindcore territory, the simple opening and closing melody is elevating enough to give the dark, grinding riffs that it bookends an entirely new framework.

In most contexts, these melodic moments would feel quite comfortable, but for Full Of Hell they provide this strange sense of disquiet. Bleeding Horizon, a particular highlight with its long droning first half, Gelding Of Men, and the closer Malformed Ligature are also prime examples of this.

When the band aren’t focussing on their shimmering melodies, they instead translate their ferocious sound into infectious, groovy riffs. Doors To Mental Agony, the Converge-esque Transmuting Chemical Burns and the frenzied Schizoid Rupture are all undeniable in their catchiness. Similarly, the punk influenced cuts Vacuous Dose, the title track Coagulated Bliss, and the relatively standard grindcore tracks Vomiting Glass and Gasping Dust all have the kind of hooks that just immediately grab your attention.

It’s pop, but definitely not as we know it…

Despite the somewhat disparate musical colouring of the album, it is Walker’s vocals that often keep everything together. Whilst they are as fluid, flexible and brutally intense as ever, they feel slightly more consistent and less volatile than on previous records. In the context of this album, it is entirely a positive thing, as it enables the music beneath to shift and fluctuate with more cohesion to the overall sound. Such is the variety in Walker’s vocals that the two features from Jacob Bannon of Converge (Malformed Ligature) and Ross Dolan of Immolation (Gasping Dust) almost go unnoticed.

I did find myself, however, really feeling the lack of noise elements. They’re something which has made Full Of Hell really stand out within the genre previously. Whilst they do appear fleetingly on this record, only Fractured Bonds To Mecca, with its slow, brooding, thumping rhythms, really embraces it.

The ending of the album with the closing track Malformed Ligature, is also not as epic as perhaps intended. The saxophone is a really interesting addition, and you can certainly understand what the band were going for. But somehow it doesn’t quite land, and it feels like the track struggles to fully construct its grand finale.

When consuming this album as a whole, rather than dissecting it into pieces, is when I really found that it came alive. The flow is superb, to the point where the incidental transitions between the tracks themselves become part of the listening experience. The band’s songwriting is on-point on almost every track, and the stylistic differences from previous Full Of Hell albums give it a unique quality. But rather than being the end-point for a new sound, it feels as much like a first major step towards something truly remarkable. It’s pop, but definitely not as we know it.

Label: Closed Casket Activities
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Scribed by: Will J