These two will no doubt work together again.
The Body’s combination of Ozark despair, Pacific Northwest isolation and Providence’s lingering Lovecraft presence has produced a sound perfectly in keeping with the duo’s image of survivalism and cultish remove. Yet any cult needs people, and Chip King and Lee Buford have long relied on collaboration to further challenge the limits and structures of their ever-shifting heaviness. Consider how The Haxan Cloak electronically underlined the eldritch properties of The Body’s thick sludge, while Thou brought to the foreground the longing beneath their alienation. One of their more recent and fruitful working relationships is with grindcore group Full of Hell, whose own interest in the broad possibilities of noise dovetails nicely with King and Buford’s increasingly experimental forays into pop and electronic forms. Having already collaborated on last year’s One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, the two develop their bond even further on Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light, which fully synchronizes their respective sonic ambitions.
A rippling sheet of noise opens “Light Penetrates,” the shimmering industrial hiss underpinned by thunderous sludge percussion that sets the stage before King’s inhuman shriek bursts into the field, at once consumed by the gales of sound already in the mix and puncturing through them. Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker fills in a few gaps with his more conventional death growl. If all of this wasn’t enough, the song comes to a close with blurts of free-jazz saxophone that disrupt whatever could be said to be the song’s beat. This opening salvo both does and does not provide an indication of the album to come; it certainly prepares the listener for the onslaught of sound to come, but in every other respect this LP is impossible to predict.
Traversing the full range of each band’s respective experiments, the album constantly shifts gears and styles. “The King Laid Bare,” for example, is a power electronics nightmare, concentrating the first track’s freeform noise into something with an actual beat, however terrifying. It could fill a dancefloor in hell, and that’s before additional guitars intrude with roaring post-rock intensity. “Master’s Story” is even more club-ready, its clap tracks and breakbeats giving the track the impression of having been unearthed from some crate-digging compilation of early, experimental UK jungle; substitute airy diva vocals for Walker’s rasp and this could have slipped onto some Metalheadz wax. “Our Love Conducted with Shields Aloft” is sax-driven hardcore punk, a long, bleated note over frantic drums that mimics classic Painkiller in its quasi-ambient grind-jazz. Somehow, the track manages to become even louder at the halfway mark, with overlapping, heavily processed percussion clattering in space you couldn’t even tell was empty before it was filled.
Even the relatively straightforward tracks show the complexity that arises from the two bands’ symbiosis. The full-on grindcore of “Earth Is a Cage” is given added dimension by the slower guitars that churn underneath its roaring blast, while “Didn’t the Night End” plays around with The Body’s recent electronic sludge by piling on layers of drums and industrial percussion. The final two tracks draw further from the Body’s deep well, trudging up their classic muck that echoes off of dank cave walls, the guitars spiked by synthesized hisses and shrieks that plunge the proceedings even deeper into terror. Full of Hell, indeed.
Despite the equal input of both groups, it’s hard not to see the project as yet another work spearheaded by The Body and their ambitions. So many of the band’s sludge peers put out split releases, but The Body’s drive toward collaboration consistently results in surprises from one of metal’s least predictable contemporary acts. Full of Hell acquit themselves excellently; their own range of expression pulls The Body in new directions while letting that band reshape the free space in their own sound. The Body has fit well with all of its collaborators, but Full of Hell so perfectly mirrors the band’s approach that the two groups truly sound like a single entity with a shared vision. These two will no doubt work together again, and it’s anyone’s guess what they will sound like when they do.