The dreary, morose mood hanging in dense, foreboding clouds over Cheyenne yesterday was ideal to set the day’s tone and prepare this sleepy town for the deceptively inconspicuous arrival of two of heavy music’s most devastating forces. For a few frenetic hours, downtown Cheyenne’s Ernie November store was home to the cataclysmic DOOM of Portland’s the body and the schizophrenic grind of Maryland’s Full of Hell, a rare and intimate record store appearance on the two bands’ current swath of decimation across the States. While the style and tempo of extremity offered by the two groups paints a jagged brush stroke across several of heavy music’s varying subgenres, both groups are equally mired in themes of misery, rage, internal conflict, cathartic suffering, and exploration of the darkest recesses of human consciousness. As such, their disparate sets provide a glimpse of both sides of the same desolate, leaden coin, and hint at what we might expect from their planned upcoming split album, anticipated for release later this year.
Watching the body set up their deceptively simple-looking gear, those not prerequisitely attuned to the sonic terror and devastation offered by the duo of Chip King and Lee Buford might be tempted to underestimate the suffocating aural intensity that is about to be unleashed. All assumptions are quickly compressed and obliterated by the first impossibly heavy notes to fill Ernie November’s space, as King’s thundering guitar rig and Buford’s gargantuan drum kit unleash psychosis-inflected hell upon the unsuspecting hordes. King and Buford are merely tuning in their instruments, tweaking sound levels, but this is enough to draw the loitering masses in from the street. As corpses begin to crowd into the record store’s tight back room, there remains a conspicuous barrier of space between the masses and the body, as though some shared unspoken dread is coursing through the crowd, urging us to keep a safe distance from this feral beast. By the time the duo have waded midway through the sludgy, panicked insanity of their first song, however — with King’s trademark shrill wail cutting through the murky depths of sonic hell like obsidian — the sheer weight emanating from their very cores has consumed us and drawn us all close, mutually aggrieved lost souls marinating wearily in the aural intensity of our suffering made corporeal.
Throughout their roughly half hour set, the pained severity and combative, introspective vehemence of the body never lets up. Individual songs bleed into one another in walls of chaos and noise. Split seconds of apparent reprieve are quickly subversed and subjugated, the air at once purged from the room just as one gasps for a desperate breath. While the brand of extremity offered by the body is not designed nor intended to get the psychopaths in the pit churning, the sheer gargantuan and suppressive ambiance and tone of internalized fury created is enough to leave the languidly headbanging crowd prostrate once that last piercing bit of feedback and grinding distortion fades out.
In ironic comparison to the initially timid gathering before the body’s set, the throng congregates dangerously close as Full of Hell complete the set-up on their equipment of destruction — ironic because the experience offered by Full of Hell is the one more likely to result in potentially inimical confrontation. Indeed, the entire place erupts into a teeming mass of flailing limbs and furious headbanging at the first lunatic sound emitted from the instruments of this demonic four-piece.
Full of Hell ringleader Dylan Walker meticulously builds a monolithic wall of chaos and noise before his cohorts rip brazenly into their opening track, a method he will repeat at points throughout the set, providing the band and the crowd both with fleeting moments of schizoid sublimity in which to catch their breath before charging headlong into the next phase of exorcistic fury. Walker flings himself around the room in erratic frenetic purgation, blurring the line between performer and participant as his feral shrieks and grating, raspy explications blend with the manic insanity of sound created by his bandmates. Dragging around a broken leg in a cast, bassist and co-vocalist Brandon Brown weaves the low end of his instrument through the jagged, chugging riffage and feedback-laden madness emanating from guitarist Spencer Hazard’s wall of Orange, alternately bent over in rhythmic deliberation between bouts of guttural vocal scorn.
The true psychopath of the bunch, however, proves to be drummer Dave Bland, whose enraged, loathsome punishment of his kit leaves one keen to avoid becoming the object of his wrath. I’m not sure how much money that drum kit owes him, but Bland is intent on collecting the balance in blood and suffering — whether plodding headlong in thunderous, leaden exultation, or charging furiously with frenetic, manic rapidity, there is no question of where the tortured, pulsating heartbeat of this group lives. Dude is a goddamn madman, and yet by the time the final caustic note fades on Full of Hell’s set, he is likely the least exhausted carcass in the room.
Having moved to Cheyenne only a month ago, this show served as my personal welcoming party to the great Wyoming outback, and I couldn’t ask for a more potent, affecting, or purgative greeting. Perhaps single-handedly injecting life into what might otherwise be a non-existent live music scene in this area is local Ernie November proprietor and savage beard tamer extraordinaire — not to mention recently annointed “Janky Promoter” — Keith Coombes. As is the case with most other acts hosted at Cheyenne’s musical mecca, the show tonight was funded through donations from those in attendance, a refreshingly DIY approach in today’s live music world, where music fans are more accustomed to dealing with price-gouging promoters and ticketing agencies. It seemed everyone was only too happy to kick in whatever they could, be it a few loose bills or the product of several hours skilled labor. After all, touring ain’t free, yeh fuckers!
To further fund their trek across the Mother Land, the body and Full of Hell brought plenty of choice merch to the party, as well. Particularly impressive was the vinyl selection offered by the body, which nearly covered their entire prodigious discography (saved for a wealth of rare 7″ and EPs that one must in turn scour the earth for). Full of Hell also had their studio discography on display for purchase in vinyl or compact disc format, along with a band logo patch, ball cap, and several fashionably filthy t-shirts. Before the show, I was able to snag a copy of Full of Hell’s recent collaborative LP with Japanese noise god Merzbow (aka Masami Akita) from Dylan himself, along with a much coveted copy of the body’s 2014 collaborative EP with Louisiana’s Thou, entitled Released from Love. (Read my review of their 2015 collaborative full length, You, Whom I Have Always Hated, by clicking here.)
I nearly nut in my pants upon seeing that this album was available for purchase, as I had thought the initial limited pressing was out of print and now unavailable for purchase outside of collector trade circles — needless to say, I snatched that burdensome bitch up quick! Not content with my haul, however, that good post-show glow found me sacrificing the rest of this week’s sustenance fund to also snag a pressing of the body’s Master, We Perish, one of the remaining few outliers to their discography I lacked in possession, along with a patch from each group. My only regret is that I didn’t try to trade a kidney, or bring more money, though a parting fist-bump and bit of fan-boy adulation with Chip King helped dull my suffering.
However, seeing as how Keith is still holding the latest release from psychedelic voyagers White Hills for me, which he was kind enough to special order, perhaps this extra kidney will still come in handy…
The best experiences in life are often those which find one left wanting, and such was certainly the case by the end of this night’s celebratory rage party. For the ride home, always a somber affair post-concert, I plugged in the body’s recent self-released CD-R rarity, an EP entitled The Tears of Job, which was issued to backers of the group’s recent “Help the body get a van” Indiegogo campaign. A striking shift in style from their customarily overpowering compositions, the tracks that make up this EP are much more sparse and spacious, a fitting denouement to the evening as I drove through the ethereal fog and gloomy, rain-drenched streets of languid Cheyenne, a lonesome drifter reluctantly returning to the “real world.”
© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.