Review: The Body & Full Of Hell- Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light (w/ bonus Pain Sludge monster!)

This is a long review. If you just want to skip down to the gameable shit, fine.
The Body & Full Of Hell's previous collab album. It fucking rules.

The limited edition pre-order yellow/green 
vinyl, which I, being a hipster fuck, own.
The Body is one of my favorite bands. They’re incredibly prolific experimental metal/noise musicians that collaborate all over the place. Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light is a joint album with Full Of Hell, a very talented grindcore group. They’ve already collaborated once, on last year’s One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, which was fucking great. Most, if not all of The Body’s collaborative records come from improvised sessions which are mixed and tweaked into albums, a technique that has worked out fabulously before in other collaborations with Krieg, The Haxan Cloak, Vampillia and Thou. Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light, while a full-on collaboration as well, feels as if it belongs to The Body far more than to Full Of Hell.





The Body- Chip King (left), Lee Buford (right)
Ascending doesn’t really feel like a companion to the last record, which featured much more metal, while this one is far more focused on electronics and drums. It heavily utilizes multiple channels, fades, and white noise to build a very absorbing sound. Several parts of the record take influence from pop and dance music. Coupled with drones, buzzes, and screams it makes something a lot of people might not call music, but personally I find it very soothing and engaging despite its chaotic sound.




Full Of Hell. No idea who's who, except the
long-haired dude is the singer
The individual tracks range in style but are mostly unified by  a sense of chaos and loathing. Light Penetrates, the first track, features noise mixed nicely with a good beat and ends in an atonal, arrhythmic instrumental from a very broken-sounding saxophone. It feels out of place, but I can never fault The Body for experimenting with their sound; it’s why I love them.
Track 2, Earth Is A Cage, is the most similar to the material on the previous album. Waves of washed out, oscillating noise dominate and guitars and drums stab in at points in a wall of sound. It feels like a group accustomed to playing together, improvising and sharing space in a way that only seasoned musicians comfortable with their sounds and able to shift on a dime can. The next track, The King Laid Bare, is a great example of the mixing and sound tweaking I was referring to: drum parts alternate between channels with each beat, forming disorienting and fascinating patterns. Didn’t The Night End, track 4, is the tightest, most focused track on the album. It's industrial-inspired with some truly impressive sound layering- disaster sirens, drones, a ridiculously heavy programmed drum beat, and Full Of Hell's drums added on top form a heavy, hellish sound. It's not only a new sound for both bands but some of the most addictive industrial music I’ve heard in a long time.

Side B begins with my least favorite track, Our Love Conducted With Shields Aloft. A desolate, washed out track covered in static, with the vocals chopped and muted in ways that make them hard to latch on to. It's kept somewhat interesting by virtuosic jazz-style drumming on top of the track, adding more energy to an otherwise stripped down, noise-laden ensemble. Master’s Story is almost poppy, with a beat that sounds like a club track. The beat is straight up addictive, yet mixes this with heavy sludge-doom guitars and a hard industrial edge, and ending in harsh electronic noise. I love this track. I could listen to a whole album of this type of music.

The last two tracks feel like companions to one another. Farewell, Man (on the left) is built on a heavy drone, enormous drums, and crushing reverb. Finally, the closer I Did Not Want To Love You So builds on Farewell, Man's juggernaut pace to form what does indeed sound like an ascent up a mountain: a journey full of pain and adversity, a commitment to pushing past suffering with the knowledge that only more of the same will follow. As it reaches the peak it ends abruptly, leaving a feeling of uncertainty. It doesn’t feel like a proper ending, more like an anticlimax. This much agony and hatred, while sometimes laced with catharsis, does not end tidily or pleasurably.

While I enjoy the album, there are a few things keeping me from loving it unreservedly. It feels incohesive. Light Penetrates (track 1) and Our Love Conducted With Shields Aloft (track 5) hold it back, with the noise elements (and that damn saxophone, which feels out of place if only because it only appears once on the album) feeling too dominant and Full Of Hell’s instrumentation feeling too absent. Not only that, but these tracks come at crucial points: the openings of both sides of the album, where they should establish a tone but instead feel like outliers. It’s just enough to drag it down from the heights it could have achieved. Overall, though, Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light is still impressive. Check it out. Then check out their other stuff. Tell me what you think. Enjoy the chaos.


500/666

Using it in your game: This album could soundtrack a variety of things: interplanar travel, the chaos of the void, the total obliteration of consciousness and reality. Play it when something fucks up- something on a massive scale. Like when the Summon spell goes wrong, or when A Blaze In The Northern Sky causes a meteor to kill fucking everybody, or the flood in Deep Carbon Observatory just completely removes all civilization and life from an area before the players’ eyes. Or in a situation of your own devising that strikes a desperate, fractured, desolate and nihilistic tone.

Bonus Gameable Content:
Anobaith (Despair)

 

The Anobaith is something which exists but has never been recorded. When found, it is incomprehensible and brings either death and erasure or is itself removed from the timeline and reality from which it existed. A Schrodinger’s creature, weakness and self-defeat given form; a curse more than a being, a consuming void more than a thing.

Anobaith live exclusively below ground and in dungeons. It appears as a sludgy mass, shimmering and dark. In lit conditions, the light is visibly drawn towards it, flowing through the air in a swirl like water down a drain. Light is sapped, losing ¼ of its potency each round for natural light sources, ⅙ each round if it is magical. A light source extinguished by the Anobaith will be gone forever, completely unable to reignite under any circumstances and gives off a shimmering blackness of its own- non-magical, but uncanny and disturbing in nature. If the light is caused by a spell, the Magic-User loses the spell permanently.

Anobaith Armor 12, Move 15′, 4 Hit Dice, 21 hp, engulf 1d4 damage, Morale 12.
A successful hit causes some of its mass to cling to the target, soaking into the flesh, blackening skin and veins and drawing light around it until it coats the affected area in a faint, glowing halo. Each successful hit drains an additional increment of the remaining light (1/4 of non-magical light , 1/6 of magical light).

Should light vanish completely or the Anobaith be encountered in darkness, it immediately consumes any living things within 10’ of it. This appears to any capable of observing it (dark/infravision, scrying, etc) as if teleported from the location. Any attempt to find them will fail- they are not in the same reality, but an identical instance inside the Anobaith from which they must find escape or be consumed by failure.

As soon as their light fades, reality flickers for a moment from the point of view of affected creatures, and they are transported either to an entirely different location, or the same location, although the Anobaith will be absent. At this point, the Ref must determine what the party’s goal is and what is a reasonable amount of time in which to complete it. This should be as fair and accurate as possible. The Ref should then roll 1d4+1, determining the number of times despair will strike until the party is devoured.

The party’s journey continues with no indication that anything has changed. At the intervals determined by the Ref, a strange prismatic glow will surround them in a flash and they will be filled with a deep, suicidal despair. Their movement is slowed to ¼ speed, encumbrance is doubled, and HP are halved for 1 turn, during which time they feel their life force being sapped. At the end of the turn, if the party has not killed a creature, gained treasure or xp through some other means, each member will have a randomly determined limb begin to wither and die, taking effect at the next interval when despair strikes a gain. Movement, encumbrance and hp return to normal (provided they have two functioning legs). This continues at each interval with a 1 turn time limit each time. If the adventurers have not completed their adventure or goal in the allotted time, they are consumed by a crushing self-loathing and hopelessness which devours their very essence. The only trace that remains is a faint aura of light around the Anobaith lasting 1 day per level of the characters consumed. This faint glow will provide light, protecting any others unfortunate enough to encounter it until it is extinguished.

If the characters do achieve their goal, then the instance they occupy replaces their original reality, overlapping to reintegrate other characters and NPCs who were not consumed, indistinguishable from their original existence. They are filled with a deep sense of relief, fulfillment and satisfaction and receive xp equal to 1/2 of the total needed to reach the next level (for example, if a character would need 2000 xp to go from level 1 to 2, they would add 1,000 xp). ½ of the wounds they sustained during their journey will be healed, including lost limbs. Other limbs are gone forever.

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