Converge All We Love We Leave Behind(Epitaph) Buy it from Insound
After more than 20 years of playing and recording together, you would think that Converge, one of the most innovative and chaotic hardcore/metal bands around today, would show even the slightest signs of slowing down. After all, hardcore bands in general typically don’t have a very long shelf life, as many of the bands predecessors and even contemporaries could barely stay together for less than a decade before disbanding. It seems like a miracle that a band like Converge is even still together, but as each release shows, from their early recordings to 2001’s masterful Jane Doe to 2009’s brilliant collaborative effort Axe To Fall, Converge prove time and time again to be more visceral, unique, and uncompromising than many of their peers, despite being considered elder statesmen amongst today’s groups. But all good things must come to an end, right? There’s no way that a band could maintain such intense momentum entering into their third decade, right?
Dead. Fucking. Wrong. All We Love We Leave Behind, the group’s eighth studio album, decimates this question with nuclear bomb force as it proves to be one of the most spectacular and intense albums the group has released yet. Primal, animalistic, and maniacal as all hell, Converges latest is a celebration of unhinged ferocity, stripping the group down to their strongest elements and presenting their trademark aggression at its rawest and bloodiest.
Before the fuse even finishes burning, AWLWLB waste no time attacking with explosive opener Aimless Arrow, which might be the strongest opening track the group has produced yet. Following in the footsteps of Axe To Fall opener Dark Horse, the track is easily one of the more accessible songs in Converges catalog, but simultaneously proves how the group can seamlessly marry chaos and structure to create an incredibly distinct blast of metallic hardcore. What sets Aimless Arrow apart from previous tracks, however, is the dramatic sense of urgency that comes from the songs every angle. With soaring riffs, manic, gymnastic drumming, and Jacob Bannon’s despair-filled wail which transforms into his distinctly inhuman bark, the devastating track reaches epic emotional heights within its mere two minute time frame, pinpointing a visceral sense of human despair that feels completely organic.
The greatest talent Converge possesses has always been their ability to organically produce the ugliest and bleakest of human emotions through their music, and AWLWLB might be one of their best examples of this yet. Though song titles like Sadness Comes Home and Empty on the Inside allude to an emotionally resonant core, you really only need to listen to the caterwauling madness recorded to feel the albums crushing weight. Early tracks like Trespasses, Tender Abuse, and Sparrows Fall are what mental breakdowns sound like plugged into amplifiers, while more patient tracks like A Glacial Place resemble the kind of pain that curdles at the bottom of your stomach like a black sludge, only to force its way out in a climactic moment of disgust. These tracks, along with many others on AWLWLB, go beyond the task of revealing their feelings; they rip through their chest cavities and pull out their blackened, still-beating hearts, screaming in agonizing pain as they do so.
The devastating nature of AWLWLB is largely due to the albums rugged, natural sounding production, which aims to preserve Converge’s harrowing chaos in its most primitive state. In interviews leading up to the album’s release, Kurt Ballou, the bands guitarist and the albums producer, explained that they wanted the album to sound as close to the groups live sound as possible, omitting the use of any digitally enhanced sounds to focus squarely on the natural strengths of each member. To say the least, they’ve succeeded in this task. AWLWLB is fully saturated with the kind of livewire, kinetic energy that has come to define the bands live aesthetic, putting the listener right in the middle of the sweatiest punk show. This is not to say that previous releases have failed to accomplish this same goal, as capturing a bands live essence on tape has seemed to be Ballou’s hallmark as a producer. However, the “live” feel of the album seems particularly underlined this time around. The bands rhythm section feels particularly meaty this time around, and the distorted feedback emanating from Ballou’s guitar is more mangled than ever, occupying as much space as it can to fully submerge the album in its wretched bliss.
While AWLWLB is ultimately characterized by the sludge-encrusted riffs and mathematical hellfire that we’ve come to expect from Converge, there is also a much more subtle focus on easily definable riffs and song structures that lay underneath even the most ferocious tracks. Such moments like Veins and Veils and the sludge-punk Shame in the Way feature well-defined riffs that are barely recognizable unless listened to closely, but the albums slow burners, like A Glacial Place and the stunningly beautiful Coral Blue, are some of the most well written tracks the group has created yet, implementing levels of patience that the group has utilized before but never with such solidarity.
The albums shining moment in songwriting, however, goes to the album’s title track. While not as rabid or chaotic as many of the other tracks, All We Love We Leave Behind stands as one of the most triumphant songs the group has ever written; a full blown anthem penned at the end of a long and bloody war. The track is certainly one of the greatest songwriting leaps the group has taken yet, as it breaks from the groups more destructive tendencies while still preserving everything that has made Converge who they are in the first place.
When all is said and done, AWLWLB isn’t a fantastic album because of what it changes, but for how it perfectly handles what has been consistent about Converge. AWLWLB is the sound of a legendary band coming to full terms with who they are, giving them the power to take everything that’s made them distinct and pushing those qualities as far as they can go in one unified statement. And while the fact remains that Converge’s reign of terror, as long lasting as it’s been, can’t last forever, their new album suggests that however old they may be, they will not stop the madness until they’ve exhausted every last blood-curling scream.11 October, 2012 - 11:25 — Peter Quinton