Interview: FULL OF HELL and their ‘Garden of Burning Apparitions’

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at 5:17 PM (PST)

photo by Jess Dankmeyer

East Coast extremists FULL OF HELL have forged a formidable path through the underground the last few years and now return with their latest uncompromising collection of anguish and triumph, Garden of Burning Apparitions. This is a towering record that will stop you in your tracks and consume YOU, instead of serving as empty consumption. Parts of this record prove you really can love both your Hammerhead and your Harmony Corruption, kids.

Some of the band stop by today to fill us in on the new and even noisier than ever variant of the band’s evolving sound and just what it means to be FoH in 2021.

Read more BELOW.

What was the band’s headspace like going into making this album? What did you want to accomplish? 

I didn’t really have an album vision, I just try to write stuff that sounds cool to me. I did want to try to push our sound but keep it natural. That’s why there’s much more noise rock influences and our first time using different guitar tunings and a new instrument in the Bass VI. – Spencer

How in the name of heck do you recreate this shit live and manage to hear what is happening in a shitty monitor onstage when the songs sound like you are trying to max out and blow up any speaker in your path? Hahaha. One of my favorite aspects is how the cymbals and drums cut in and out of the chaos like helicopter blades at times but it all sort of forms this overall percussive/distorted “shape”, in places. Like if Phil Spector’s wall of sound was actually him being ground up in agricultural machinery, with metal drumming! 

This record has a bit more in terms of “ear candy” and subtle layering. Aside from general electronics, guitars, vocals and drums also received extra touches. Dave is utilizing more non-traditional types of percussion nowadays and has things like extra snares, cymbals and pads. We have a pretty firm set up live. Our setlists are kind of like vague roadmaps, with areas indicating where certain things need to happen. Most of what we are doing is very dialed in, but there’s always breathing room for us to “jam” on certain sections. Maybe we are simply comfortable in our own shoes, but it’s easy for us to know what’s going on, as long as we can hear kick, snare and guitar. -Dylan

Was it fun to sort of throw the mathy thrashy shit in with the kind of Am Rep/Grindfuck parts in the title track? Or is it not that calculated? I feel like the guitar tones in this band are so much of the experience compared to a lot of groups. They sort of seem (gasp) sophisticated in their curated barbarism, haha. Easily the most pretentious sentence I have said in awhile. But I mean it as a compliment, as in you know your roots and how to push what you like further. “All Bells Ringing” is kind of your funky dance song, hate to break it to you. But really, that is a wild ride. I also really enjoyed “Reeking Tunnels”. It reminded me of talking to Steve Austin once and I think we were talking about Jesus Lizard and how at first it feels alien and then once you get it becomes addictive.

Spencer has definitely been flexing his taste for noise rock more as time goes by. I think when we were younger we were more cautious about what sounds went into the records, but we are finally giving that up and doing exactly what we want. Most of the influences you hear are very intentional. Spencer always goes into writing with at least some kind of vague ideas in terms of how he wants the record to come out. It always comes out differently from what we are anticipating, but there’s definitely a methodology there haha. – Dylan

Something like “Derelict Satellite”, did you guys just get bored during lockdown and lift weights listening to KK Null or was it a product of losing your minds some other way? In all seriousness though, I think once your brain feels like a pixelated explosion one too many times in this world (something I think of often), noise as a genre starts to also make sense beyond “rock” elements. I work with the noise artist Gridfailure semi-often and it is amazing how immersive the subgenre can become once you open your mind to those kinds of textures. What drew you all towards it more? Sort of an endless process of deconstruction? 

Spencer has wanted to have noise be part of our DNA since we started the band. When I joined early on, I was absolutely down with this notion, not only because we all loved bands like Man is the Bastard, Endless Blockade and Gasp that were utilizing noise in their music, but because we just really thought it was important to not have the limitations of a rock band type of set up. We wanted the live experience to feel like one giant wall of sound, ebbing and flowing. So the focus has never been on creating compact little wrapped up songs but more of a giant piece of music. It’s so exciting for us to be able to create sounds any way we want, and to see how far you can bend something to make it fit. – Dylan

“Eroding Shell” might be my favorite. It is just so crunchy and rude. Slight Godflesh and Entombed vibes in there. It impresses me how while your songs are short they still manage to sound natural and composed and an experience rather than a stylistic crutch. How do you know when a Full Of Hell song is done? I feel like with your sound you could stretch out any of them and people wouldn’t mind that much. 

I have to keep in mind when writing a song “that this sounds good” if not I’m gonna keep focusing on it and it’ll never get finished or get junked up. I try to keep the punk mindset of 3-4 notes and 3 or 4 parts. – Spencer

This will sound probably insane but at times if I was having a bad mental health day I couldn’t listen to your band over the years because the name would sort of remind me of feeling like a cup full of traumas. Which is…funny, because my own band is called Walking Bombs and that isn’t like some cheery affirmation sounding name, hahaha. But how much does Full Of Hell reflect soaking up society’s baggage and having a musical outlet for that versus a statement of intent, as in…not being scared of embodying things deemed sinful by conservative types? I think it actually can also be affirming, like being Full of Hell but not being beaten down by it, or knowing it is ok to feel like shit sometimes and actually more logical than spiritual bypassing. That is healthier than compartmentalizing your way through life to pretend things are great at a shitty job, for example. 

So the name Full of Hell is obviously an Entombed nod. Spencer chose the name citing one of the influences he was carrying when he started the band. An interesting thing for me for the past few years is finding some kind of real organic meaning from the name on our terms.

Yeah, totally.

For me, “Full of Hell” means the potential of a human life – for good or bad deeds, large and small. If there’s been a constant thruline it’s the lament for human suffering, sort of a vague mantra of empathy I guess. It’s been cool to do this band for so long and to find real meaning in it after many years. -Dylan

Further tying this train of thought into your current record title, the concept of damnation is such a rabbit hole. That’s not a Hell pun, but I guess it actually…is? Ok, rant…Your record title makes me think of the Garden of Eden versus Earthly Delights, etc. Or how on The Wire Omar would say it is all part of the game, the briefcase and the shotgun. Or like, of course the imagery of the Burning Bush and other instances of Fire could be holy or unholy in the Bible, but in your album’s case I couldn’t help but think of California wildfires raging or or this life we all dream of having, some kind of happiness turning to ash in the face of apathy. Mass death, etc. Or our illusions becoming what haunt us, like smoke parting after a disaster. Obviously, “Industrial Messiah Complex” also talks about the illusion of megachurches. It is crazy how much harm can be done or how a message that means love to some people can be hijacked and used to exploit or cause hate by others. I am much more interested in like a flawed Jesus who fucks, like Last Temptation of Christ or the idea or restorative healing communal justice or something than a fuckin’ megachurch condemning homosexuals while they rip people off and grow fat off the pulpit. What went into the album title and thematic touchstones for you? 

I would posit that the record is moreso about enlightenment and illumination rather than damnation! I have been fixated my entire life on the idea of spirituality and impermanence, having such a void in my heart where those things are concerned. Our Earthly experiences are probably limited blips in time and it’s hard to hold any kind of reverence for life and not feel absolutely destroyed seeing what a human being is capable of in terms of violence and selfishness. I think I’ve been writing about the same things for my entire life, I’m just coming to terms with that nowadays. -Dylan

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