Full of Hell, Outer Heaven, WVRM, Trudge

Local 506, Chapel Hill

Saturday, October 13, 2018

From many angles, 2018 has been a horror show. Catastrophic storms and wildfires buttress increasingly urgent warnings of our planet’s decay and our own species’ role in ensuring its doom. The institutions we create to protect and guide our societies continue to betray us, from the Catholic church’s protection of pederast priests to our own government’s anointing of accused predators in its highest offices.

It can feel as though we’re living in a realm of eternal decay, which is perhaps part of the reason why 2018 has been such a banner year for death metal. Veteran acts like Skinless and At the Gates have issued vicious new albums, while next generation standard bearers like Horrendous have pushed the genre further without abandoning its innate brutality. And acts like Tomb Mold, Extremity, Infernal Coil and, particularly, Pennsylvania’s Outer Heaven have given us LP-length death metal beatdowns that feel remarkably life affirming.

Outer Heaven arrived in Chapel Hill on Saturday, only a day after releasing their excellent debut Realms of Eternal Decay, as part of a tour in support of the noise-addled grindcore lords Full of Hell. From the undercard—Boone hardcore act Trudge and Greenville, South Carolina grindcore band WVRM—on through to the headliners, the show delivered relentless intensity, compelling performances, and a few hours of blissfully loud escapism that exceeded this fan’s already high expectations.

Realms of Eternal Decay is an immediately vicious album that never shies away from ugly tones and confrontational delivery. Singer Austin Haines smears his low growls across pummeling riffs from guitarists Jon Kunz and Zak Carter, while bassist Ray Figueroa and drummer Paul Chrismer carve dark chasms in the low-end. But the album also reveals Outer Heaven to be adept at both the technical and groove-driven aspects of their chosen genre. Live, those qualities came to the fore.

The band’s tight interplay and understated sense of melody earns all of the comparisons to icons like Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse, but their ability to charge into gut-level grooves feels as much indebted to hardcore’s straight-ahead attack as orthodox metal.

It also made Outer Heaven an ideal complement to Full of Hell, whose headlining set was a violent barrage of noisy grindcore led by the uncanny frontman Dylan Walker. Walker’s voice bursts suddenly from searing shrieks into low growls, while the band lunges dynamic intensity. Indeed, Full of Hell has evolved from its foundations in blast-beaten grind through collaborations with noise icon Merzbow and doom explorers The Body, to something much more volatile and nuanced than typical grindcore.

Live, Full of Hell brought low-end heft and surging dynamics to their set, making their already vicious songs feel much more powerful than they do in their recorded forms.

The crowd, which filled Local 506 comfortably, felt almost celebratory. The mosh pit held as many broad grins as flailing limbs. Within the maelstrom of four ferocious performances, there was, for a couple hours at least, a sense that maybe the world wasn’t so bad, after all.