If the first collaboration between The Body & Full of Hell, One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, wasn’t the best metal release of last year, it may have been the most promising. The union of the two wasn’t entirely surprising. Both had collaborated with others (The Body with Thou and Krieg and more, Full of Hell with Merzbow) and Full of Hell’s sludgier take on grindcore/powerviolence meant a union with Lee Buford’s cataclysmic drums and Chip King’s signature agonized cry was inevitable. The album didn’t feel like a victory lap and offered genuine surprises. When I think of Leonard Cohen's final year, three things come instantly to mind: his moving final album, his death shortly after, and The Body & Full of Hell’s chilling cover of ‘The Butcher.’

A year later, the pairing is back for round two: Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light, an album that indeed feels like a gradual climb up a land mass with no actual peak to reach. Instead, it keeps getting bigger and bigger. But just like the violently shining light that draws you closer and closer, the bands keep you locked in through how well they move from one piece to another. Most surprisingly, it has a humanistic element that gives this album a more rounded feel.

For two acts so cloaked in darkness, it makes a sort of sense that their album opener would bear the title ‘Light Penetrates.’ While the initial digital distortion isn’t quite akin to the temporarily-blinding terror of turning on the bathroom light when you wake up in the middle of the night, King’s wail is as powerful as ever, sounding both terrified and terrifying. Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker's voice is more traditionally monstrous: curdled, gnashing, and utterly petrifying. Proving that The Body & Full of Hell are more about slow burns than full throttle assaults, the track concludes with its most unexpected and frightening element: frantic saxophone courtesy of Full of Hell bassist Sam DiGristine.

There might not be many jump scares, but there are definitely more abrasive tracks. The synths and drum machines of ‘Earth is a Cage’ bounce ‘pleasantly’ before Walker and surging guitars ramrod through as he speaks of “Tears like rivers.” King’s background cries sound like he’s trying to keep Walker from going off the brink, not realizing he might be past the point of saving. ‘Master’s Story’ starts with a suspiciously peppy rhythm and thinner, but still effective production. The more industrial vibe and tone from Walker is reminiscent of Uniform. “Why did you leave us?” Walker asks, before being interrupted by apocalyptic drums and his own howling. The peppiness resumes, but the rift is only widening before a white noise conclusion acts as a doomsday coda.

Though there's no weak link to be found on this album or between both bands, Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light’s success is largely due to Walker and King. Both do some of the best work of their careers and add so much dimension and vitality to the project. On ‘Didn’t the Night End,’ Walker’s words sound like they’re being forcibly burnt off his tongue. The percussion on ‘Our Love Conducted With Shields Aloft’ (courtesy of Lightning Bolt virtuoso Brian Chippendale) is brilliant but subtly outshone by King sounding like he’s been buried alive, screaming for help against the freight train that is Chippendale’s drumming. On a similar note, the start-stop death metal-esque penultimate track, ‘Farewell, Man,’ feels like being lead into a grave, whether or not your time has come.

Any worthwhile collaboration won’t sound exactly like what you expected, or even how you thought it should have. There needs to be compatibility, but there also needs to unpredictability. With this captivating sequel, The Body & Full of Hell have given us something striking that could only have been realized with each other. They clearly had much more to say following their first album, and we can only hope the journey doesn’t end here.