If you’ve been paying attention to the extreme metal scene over the past decade, you should know Full of Hell. Formed in 2009 by a group of incredibly determined and musically talented teens, the band has been making harsh, utterly unclassifiable music since. The band’s first release, 2010’s EP The Inevitable Fear of Existence, marked the start of a wildly fertile creative period that has included five full-lengths, multiple live records, a variety of EPs, and a ton of splits. Throughout it all, the band has honed its instantly recognizable sound into a potent strain of metal that mixes powerviolence, death, grindcore, punk, and noise into one wholly unique package.
Coming off 2021’s knockout LP Garden of Burning Apparitions, Full of Hell are showing no signs of slowing down. The band has already knocked out a tour in 2022 and, according to vocalist Dylan Walker, has plenty more planned for fans to get excited about in the coming months and years. I recently caught up with Walker to discuss the band’s history, creative process, and what’s coming up next for one of the most exciting young bands on the scene.
You guys have had a pretty consistent lineup throughout your career. I was wondering how you guys stay so consistent and what drew you all to each other in the first place?
Dylan: Spencer (Hazard, guitars/noise) and Dave (Bland, drums) have been the core of the band since the beginning. Dave was really young, so he couldn’t always tour (14-15 when they started) and I joined a few months after they officially formed the band. I don’t really have a good answer as to why we have stayed together and kept it rolling for so long other than that we just love what we are doing and have zero interest in doing anything else. Personally, I think I was drawn to FOH in the first place because I’d never met anyone as obsessed and dedicated as Spencer and I really just wanted to make music and get in the van. I didn’t realize at the time what a crazy musician Dave was, but we’ve seen how that’s gone. Making music with both of those guys is a privilege for sure. Sam (DiGristine) has also been our longest running bassist at this point and is just a really easy guy to get along with.
What is it about grindcore and just extreme music in general that appeals to you?
Dylan: I don’t know. I always liked extreme sound in general. Stuff that exists at either end of the spectrum in terms of tempo… ambient, drone, doom, and, of course, grindcore, punk, more aggressive types of techno (gabber etc). I just think variety is nice, and looking at something like music in its most extreme forms is always going to be really interesting.
Who are your musical influences, both in and out metal?
Dylan: There are definitely a handful of artists/bands that are still pretty influential to me that are directly related to FOH, stuff like Gasp, Man is the Bastard (Noise), Swans, Khanate, Melvins, Demilich… but I listen to a lot of things. I think as I get older my palette just gets broader. Lately I’ve been falling back on stuff like Brian Eno, Gas, Stars of the Lid, Basinski, Grouper and some newer folk and pop stuff like Arooj Aftab, Haley Heynderickx, Twigs, Eartheater, Orion Sun… (I don’t know) the list can go on forever! I just like music and it all influences me in some way.
I typically see the band classified as grindcore but I feel like I can pick out powerviolence, sludge, death, and even noise influences on different spots in the discography. Pinning you guys down to a specific genre feels a bit like a snipe hunt. How would you describe your sound?
Dylan: Oh yeah, we aren’t the true version of any of those genres. We don’t really consider ourselves to be a “grindcore” band per se… That’s not out of pretension or something, we just don’t have both feet in any lane. My description depends on who I’m talking to. I had an older cousin refer to us as grindcore over the summer and that really surprised me (he doesn’t go to a ton of extreme shows or anything). I usually just say metal, but I think we consider ourselves a punk band in a really general sort of way. It literally doesn’t matter.
What is your writing process like for the music aspect? Is there a primary songwriter or is it a collective effort?
Dylan: Spencer and Dave are the primary songwriters. I handle all of the lyrics, the imagery is usually a collective effort between Spencer and I and most recently we’ve decided that album titles should be discussed amongst the group as a whole (laughs). We have a pretty smooth process.
In regards to lyrics, how do you come up with them? Your lyrics don’t shy away from the darkness of life, which I really appreciate in bands, since that can provide a fantastic outlet for listeners going through something or who just need something to listen to that isn’t going to hit them with platitudes or empty words just so the vocalist has something to say. How much catharsis is there for you in your writing?
Dylan: I think making anything is very cathartic. My vehicle is my writing, so yes it’s definitely helpful. I’ve never been able to write when I’m actually in crisis or feeling manic/depressed/anxious or whatever. I can only really look at it and distill it when it’s in my rearview. I try not to force myself to write, the most ideal situation is one where I have plenty of space and time and if an idea strikes me, I write it down and dig into it later. Usually a phrase will come to me that really seems to roll off my tongue, something I really like the feel of and I’ll copy it down and just expand on the idea from there. The lyrics will be in a big, wordy block and just sit tight until we demo songs and then I’ll gut it again and work it into the vocal rhythm of the song while making sure it keeps the same message and ideally the same prose. It’s not a perfect system or anything, but it’s always worked for me.
Staying with the lyrics, you touch frequently on themes that are ever present in our current state of the world, including religion, denial of facts, and the ever present specter of death that feels like it looms over us more and more as we continue to deal with the pandemic and the reality of yet more wars across the globe. How much does what’s going on in the world play into your writing?
Dylan: I would be lying if I said I wasn’t directly affected by what’s going on in the world around me. I don’t always like art that’s tied to current events. I feel like it puts a timestamp on it and it loses its taste pretty quickly. That said – because it’s inevitable, I try not to worry about it. For the most part, it’s all just observation from my own perspective, and a lot of the qualms I have are pretty universal and have been problems for me all of my life. All I can do is write from a place of honesty.
What was the recording process for Garden of Burning Apparitions like? There are so many different shifts in sound throughout it and a ton of ideas packed into a crazily concise package with no wasted time that, to me, pushes the extremity of your sound further than it’s ever been. It’s a hell of a ride and my favorite album from you guys so far. How did you achieve such a diverse sound on this album that, like I said, feels more extreme than ever but is still distinctly recognizable as a Full of Hell record?
Dylan: You know, I’m probably not the best member of the band to be answering this, but I’ll give it a shot. I think this record is just a marker for how far everyone has come as musicians. It’s extremely claustrophobic and full of a lot of different sounds, but still has the same DNA we’ve always had. It’s just a new and more aggressive approach to who we are as a band. It’s also an extremely blast-heavy record because we have a few records that sound VERY different from what we’ve done to this point coming down the pipe. So in the big picture, it’s like the end of a trilogy of records for us and we wanted to just hammer it home.
What was the process of recording and releasing the album during COVID like? How delayed/affected were you by the lockdowns and distancing measures?
Dylan: It didn’t affect us that much, to be honest. The biggest change was that we didn’t have any touring lined up for a long period of time. Since 2011, there’s always been a tour coming and a tour going. It gave us more time to sit around and write. The end result is giving us a whole bunch of records (that will take years to release)…
Along with the album, you released an incredibly striking music video for “Industrial Messiah Complex.” Who does your videos and how do you come up with the concepts for them?
Dylan: That video was done by our friend Richard Rankin. We kind of gave him free reign with that and the Reeking Tunnels videos. He had a lot of fun creating wax molds and figuring out how to create some form of a ghost visual that’s grounded in realism.
Keeping with the visual aspect, who designs your album covers and how do you decide on the subjects for them? Every one of them has been arresting and they all feel like great visual representations of what is contained in the records.
Dylan: We work with a lot of different artists. The last few mainline FOH LPs were all designed by Mark McCoy. He’s a very striking artist with a distinct style and approach. Very cinematic and densely curated collage work. Our first cover with him was the Merzbow collab, but it wasn’t until Trumpeting Ecstasy that we took our working relationship to a more collaborative level. Since then he’s designed 3 albums, which ended up working as a sort of trilogy. He’s ended up having a huge impact on us creatively and helped shine a light on who we are as a band, especially influential to my approach to our band.
You signed with Relapse, who has a ridiculously deep stable of exciting bands, in 2018. What has that partnership meant to you and done for the band?
Dylan: It’s been cool. They really like music and are generally nice to work with.
We are also running an interview with the band Apes about their excellent EP, Lullabies for Eternal Sleep and I was wondering if you could speak on what drew you to collaborating with them on that project.
Dylan: We have been friends for years and I really like their band. That pretty much checks the boxes I look for with something like this. They’re great!
I had tickets to see you guys with Wolves in the Throne Room back in January and was massively bummed when that tour got cancelled. Ditto Converge when their tour with Meshuggah got pushed back and they had to drop out of the new dates. As soon as the new dates for the upcoming tour together got announced, you can believe I bought tickets for the Chicago show the second they went on sale. How did the new tour come together?
Dylan: Yeah, we were super disappointed by the Wolves tour, but honestly it was kind of relieving to not have to travel in the winter. Obviously the Converge tour is a dream come true for us, so I’m really glad it worked out the way it did. I talk to Nate (Newton, bass in Converge) semi-often and one day we were just chatting about our cancelled tours and he asked if we wanted to jump on their tour that they’d booked in place of their cancelled tour with Meshuggah. It was as easy as that, and it ended up being the best tour we’ve ever done.
Lastly, what’s next for Full of Hell after the upcoming tour? What are your goals for the next few years?
Dylan: Well, we are all getting older but the nice thing is that we all still feel very motivated and on a personal level I feel very privileged to be here and I feel that we still have a whole lot to say. We plan pretty far ahead, so there are a lot of cool tours in the works and many records. My goal is to keep going. We need to take advantage of the opportunities we are given and the support we receive. It’s sick!