According to random statements in various movies, fashion happens in cycles. As someone who has primarily worn the same three pairs of shorts they’ve had since high school, I’ll have to trust whatever the entertainment people tell me about high-waisted lady pants and their popularity in both the 70s and whatever era of the 2000s. What I do know is that the appearance of a band’s influences and their penchant for experimentation can also be cyclical. It is not uncommon to see a group push their sound significantly in one direction across several albums and follow that up by re-embracing their earliest style.
The hardcore influence here isn’t the simpler style found on their debut Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home. No, this is a modern, slightly more technical style that has a lot in common with Converge at their most hostile. Look to the steady beat and hardcore stomp of “Asphyxiant Blessing” that devolves into whirling and twiddling guitar runs before dropping into a slow breakdown. “Eroding Shell” has a mid-paced warped riff that cuts like an old alarm clock reminiscent of Petitioning the Empty Sky. Then there’s “Reeking Tunnels,” whose four main guitar parts offer cocky swagger, straightforward rock, atonal twists, and a bouncy drive in equal measure in a way that smacks of Ire Works-era The Dillinger Escape Plan.
Let’s not get it twisted though, Full of Hell is still first and foremost a grind band. Every one of these hardcore elements funnels through a filter of pummeling, hideous, and noisy grind made all the more intense by Dylan Walker’s animalistic screams and gut-squeezing growls. The opener “Guided Blight” is a minute of blistering hostility that sets the tone for what’s to come. “Burning Apparition” is one of the most visceral tracks they’ve put out in recent memory. It opens with Walker’s piercing screams cutting your ears over a pulsing riff that’s regularly punctured by short bursts of blasts and a jagged killer riff, all before dropping a repeated batch of haymakers on your head to close it.
The above mention of noise is a very intentional one. Garden of Burning Apparitions also ratchets up the non-instrumental noise elements that have been a significant focus of Full of Hell’s collaborative efforts with The Body and Merzbow. Those tactics have always been part of their sound, but almost every song on this album has at least a brief foray into Walker and guitarist Spencer Hazard’s preferred din. There is a mix of subtle and not-so-subtle moments. Subtlety permeates the steady static and low-end notes punctuating the breakdown-style riff at the end of “Asphyxiant Blessing,” as well as in the distortion at the beginning of “Industrial Messiah Complex,” which sounds like someone is shaking the audio cord and causing the music to cut in and out of the speakers. There are more abrasive passages like the closing moments of “Celestial Hierarch” that pierce your ears like an airport security alarm. Then, of course, they have a dedicated noise track in “Derelict Satellite.” Those tracks never do much for me personally, but they also aren’t enough of a detriment to sour the overall album experience.
For those looking for another step in Full of Hell’s experimental journey or a fresh list of exciting guest musicians to adorn the liner notes, you’ll likely be a bit disappointed here. But for those that are just as content to hear another biting 20 minutes of Full of Hell unleashing pure fury akin to their Merzbow collaboration, Garden of Burning Apparitions should be considered a must-listen.