“Did we finally sell out a show after eleven years?” asked guitarist Nick Palmirotto from the stage. “I’m gonna fucking cry.”
Snow, slush, and wintry rain couldn’t keep a throng of metalheads from packing the house at Coco 66 Saturday night to bid farewell to Hull. The progressive sludge band has been a staple of the Brooklyn metal scene for the past eleven years, but have decided to disband as life takes each member in new directions.
Hull have had a respectable run, with two LPs and a couple EPs to their credit as well as their first European tour in 2014 with an appearance at the massive Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands. But the larger story here seems to be the influence they’ve had on the local metal community. By most accounts, they were one of the first metal bands to appear on the now-thriving Brooklyn metal scene when they came together in 2004.
“When we started,” drummer Jeff Stieber recalls, “there weren’t all these cool metal venues in Brooklyn, or anywhere. We’d always play random spots in Manhattan.” He says there were always other metal bands sharing the bill with them, but the landscape for extreme music was patchier than it is today. “The community has grown way bigger than it ever was,” Stieber observes.
In a sense, Hull were unintentional trendsetters. One fan in attendance, Tom Smolinski, remembers meeting the band shortly after he moved to New York in 2006. “Through them, I found out about Brooklyn metal,” he says, adding that they shared info “as dudes” with common interests, not as self-promoters.
Hull guitarist Carmine Laietta says a highlight of the band’s tenure for him was hearing they’d inspired another musician. “One friend of ours who plays in Beast Modulus gave me some really nice words one time,” he related before the show. “He said, ‘[Hull] inspired me to start my own band. I thought you guys were so fucking awesome.’ That alone…that makes everything worth it.”
The band played a deliberately unhurried, two-hour set (see setlist below), pausing between songs to thank individuals in the audience for being part of Hull’s history. (During one break, someone in the audience grabbed a mic to say, “You guys have been up here thanking everyone, and I think everyone should thank you guys.”) The set featured tunes from the full catalog, stretching back to the epic one-song Viking Funeral LP from 2007. Sound guru Sean Ray of Stray Audio was on deck, mixing and recording the gig in addition to lending extra equipment to the band to ensure optimal sound, and the results were appreciable. About midway through, third founding guitarist Drew Mack, who left the band in 2012, stepped onstage to revive the triple-ax attack of the original lineup.
If one measures success by the quality of one’s relationships, then Hull have been truly successful. At Coco 66, the crowd included both locals and out-of-towners — some from out of state and some from other countries — who all gathered to show their support. Perhaps most important are the relationships the band members have with each other. Their “breakup” is an amicable parting of ways rather than an implosion. “We all love each other,” says Palmirotto. “We’re like a family. This is the longest relationship that I’ve ever been in, personally.” He feels the ending is “bittersweet.”
As for the future, some of their paths will diverge, and some will intersect. Palmirotto is working on a project called Pyrolatrous that he describes as “more brutal, black death flash grindcore” with members of Krallice and Liturgy. Laietta will become a father in July but intends to keep playing with Mack in another band, Marching Teeth. Stieber bought an electric drum kit to keep his chops up at home and is considering session work but doesn’t plan on joining another band right away. Bassist Sean Dunn can be found deeply entrenched in metal behind the bar at the Anchored Inn, the sister establishment next door to the Acheron.
Will there ever be a Hull reunion? It seems the door remains open to that possibility. “I firmly believe that relationships never truly end,” says Palmirotto. “They just change.”
Setlist, 2/21/15 at Coco 66:
Beyond the Lightless Sky
In Death, Truth
Earth From Water