MM: I always try to keep my ears open when it comes to finding new music, especially when it comes to more abstract forms of music like ambient, drone or noise. I guess what draws me in into these styles of music isn’t what these musicians do, but rather it’s what they don’t do, like not using conventional song structures or instrumentation.
One of my favorite records of 2017 was the collaboration between The Body and Full of Hell, Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light. Respectively, they are a sludge metal and grindcore band that have been part of a North American Renaissance in extreme metal. The record is a dark, transcendental trip featuring overpowering electronics, blistering metal instrumentation and an overall alien mood, as if this music wasn’t really of this world.
I recommended this album to our fantastic managing editor, Madalyn Alfonso, who said she wanted to listen to something really different. I hope this fits the bill, Maddy!
MA: Okay so from the get-go, I knew I was in for something totally wild because I asked the Oracle staff to recommend something weird and out of my comfort zone for this week’s issue of “Something Borrowed.” Based on my DJ skills at production night, they get a pretty good gage that I listen to lots of pop, rock and alternative music, and that’s about it. Matt McDonough took “alternative” to a whole new level for me by recommending Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light by The Body and Full of Hell.
Yes, right from the title, I could tell I was in for something good, just like I’d asked for.
The album starts with what I thought was a glitch coming from my Spotify app. I recently dropped my phone in the bathtub so when I heard the opening, uh, noises, I figured it was my phone bugging out. But then some sick drums kicked in, and I realized I was actually listening to the album.
We don’t hear a human voice until almost a minute into the first track, “Light Penetrates,” and it’s just a scream. I assume lead singer Chip King is just screaming for the entirety of the opening track. Go listen to it and tell me if I’m wrong.
I had to do some research on this type of music and vocalization before I continued with the album, because I honestly started to feel stupid that I couldn’t understand it. The Body is composed of King on guitar and vocals and Lee Buford on drums and other sound-makers to craft the music. Full of Hell features Dylan Walker on vocals, Spencer Hazard on drums, Dave Bland on drums and Sam Dibrisfine on bass. It involves much more than guitar, drums and screams to create this type of sound though, and I don‘t think I could name a single thing Buford does or uses in order to make the sounds I heard. I quickly realized I bit off more than I could chew with letting Matt recommend some doom/sludge metal to me.
I’m struggling with how to describe the way any of the tracks sound, because I am very much out of my element here. However, the beats can be fun sometimes, like in “Master’s Story” it almost feels like a marching band type of beat. I can picture some interpretive dance numbers to it if I focus hard enough.
My favorite track would be “Didn’t the Night End,” and I’m not sure why. Once I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me, I found myself trying to connect thoughts and emotions to the sounds. I felt my bad mood being communicated through the strong, angry noise on this track. I caught words within King’s screeching too, which helped. This track feels angrier than the others, and darker. The bass is heavy in this one too, so I feel it in my body when I blast it really loudly. “Didn’t the Night End” starts angry and strong, and maintains that throughout it, which I admire.
It’s hectic, it’s tortured, it’s piercing, it’s loud even if you have your phone volume low, which honestly is not how you should listen to it. I recommend shutting the lights, laying down alone and blasting it as loud as you can in order to fully experience it. It takes quite a lot of skill to be this controlled when creating actual nightmare fuel.
It doesn’t just sound like a mish-mash of noises though, but rather like a precise cacophony of screams, drum beats and other indescribable noises. All parties know exactly where every moving piece of the music goes, and none of it feels random or misplaced, even though it is a lot of banging, screeching and smashing.
I spent a majority of this album terrified, which is exactly what The Body and Full of Hell tries to make you feel like with their music. The group is incredibly experimental and the experimentation behind doom/sludge metal is no f*cking joke. I thought I was hot sh*t for liking Metallica, but I am really not.
Would I have appreciated some lyrics I could make out, or some regular screamo? Yes, but still, I was not disappointed in what I received. Different types of music entertain all different kinds of people, and I love being exposed to the inner musings of people who differ from me.
All in all, listening to Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light made me realize just how wide and ever-expanding the genre of metal can be. I had no idea how much it could combine with punk, or how truly scary it can sound. I find it fascinating that The Body and Full of Hell has the ability to induce terror simply through music, and that’s a feat I cannot say I’ve found in other genres. All 34 minutes of this album feel like they are cohesively tied together, telling a story somewhere among the rage-induced dissonance.