Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Satan had a nervous breakdown? If the iconic symbol of evil just got pushed too far and snapped his cork? The sound of that collapse of sanity could be used to describe the new Converge album All We Love We Leave Behind. Is this a comparable follow up to 2009’s Axe To Fall? Yes it is. Does it fall in the pantheon of their classic 2001 record Jane Doe. Yes it does. Final question, does Converge bring something new to the table? Oh yes my friends, they do.
Now before everybody starts grabbing their Frankenstein killing pitchforks, the new that I refer to is not the controversial first single “Aimless Arrow”. The song, which featured vocalist Jacob Bannon doing a bit more singing than guttural screaming, seemed to offend the Converge purists. To be honest, to be true to the truth and have style, I’m not a huge fan of the song and I think opening the record with it was a bad move. That is unless Converge wanted to lightly slap your face before beating the shit out of you.
“Trespasses”, which follows “Aimless Arrow”, is a devastating assault. Psychopathic drums drive guitar madness and it’s all held together but the wailing of Jacob’s most pain inflicted screams. The speed betrays the complexity of the tune. It’s astounding the work that bassist Nate Newton and guitarist Kurt Ballou weave between each other. The sound here is so much bigger than what one bass and one guitar should be able to do.
Stepping on the heels of “Trespasses” is “Tender Abuse”, which is straight up old school hardcore if played by Terrorizer. The construct of the song opens heavy, nearly black metal speed, and then explodes into a straight New York Hardcore verse that could’ve come from Maximum Penalty or Bold. Converge seamlessly shift between the hardcore and the violent extreme noise and by the end you’re not exactly sure what just happened.
“Sadness Comes Home” lives up to its title. The intro is a slow, plodding collection of riffs and downbeats that lead you to believe Converge might be throwing down the gauntlet into doom metal. Just as the heaviness is about to drag you into the swamp, Ballou unloads with an Eddie Van Halen by way of (in his prime) Dave Mustaine guitar solo. Oh, I get it, this is the thrash song. You’d think that except the blistering slap down hardcore rides just below the hammering solo. Oh wait, the slow returns and…and….ah fuck it I don’t know. This is a genetically mutated monster of five genres that gets up and walks towards the defenseless town ready to kill everyone.
Want to know about awesome bass work? Let’s talk “Empty On The Inside”, which crushes the soul with a stomp box noise influenced intro before Newton drops this vile and ugly bass line and drummer Bill Koller starts his military drum roll. This is an ugly part, a grim rhythm section unity that is only alleviated when the band decides to enter the noisy and despondent slow part.
Slow parts of great sadness, fast sections of unbridled fury? Ugly bits and pieces of noise and guitars, bass and drums. The patchwork of Satan’s breakdown begins to come undone at the seams by the midpoint of All We Love We Leave Behind. Yep, the psychological turmoil is unleashed and you still have half a record to go.
“Vicious Muse” is one of my favorites as the funky drumbeat stands juxtaposed to the harsh guitar madness but, in true Converge fashion, it all works. “Coral Blue” is a showstopper. This is the only song that remains crushingly slow through the entirety and the effect is devastating. Jacob’s low vocal delivery is his most psychopathic and combined with the music is a clear example of Converge flexing their song writing muscles. I guarantee some of the Converge purists will moan and will probably miss the point. This is the band tapping their inner Swans or their inner Neurosis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s Converge through and through but the sounds their playing with are very different. If I’d had a say, I would have opened the album with this song.
As much of true Converge as this album is, the differences in what they do are there. Musical chances like “Coral Blue” or “Aimless Arrow” keep the album from seeming formulaic and the combination of hardcore and metal, while always the Converge bread and butter, seem more pronounced here. Many of the bands born from a love of hardcore and metal seem to focus more on the metal and less on the hardcore. No matter how heavy Converge get or insane or guitar frenzied, you hear the hardcore influences in every song.
I can sense the presence of Negative Approach and Void in the meaner, heavier work. Bands like Black Flag, Judge, Breakdown, Burn, Sheer Terror, their weight is felt within the core of the faster work. Converge don’t sound like any of these bands but if know your history, when you listen to All We Love We Leave Behind, the whispers of what they’ve learned from those bands are there.
Getting nitpicky, I would have liked the album to be tracked differently. Some of the faster numbers could have been spaced apart more effectively and the slower jams brought in earlier. All We Love We Leave Behind isn’t uneven exactly, I just think the album would seem more cohesive if the sequencing been altered. Like I said, nitpicky bullshit from a jerk perfectionist.
Converge have unleashed the soundtrack to damnation with All We Love We Leave Behind. During their time away the members were all involved with different things. Nate Newton with Doomriders and Old Man Gloom, Kurt Ballou becoming the Dr. Dre of heavy music production, Jacob Brannon with his art and Ben Koller with All Pigs Must Die and Acid Tiger. Some questioned whether Converge would still have it when they returned. Having formed once again as a violent anarchistic Voltron, Converge will lay waste to your doubts and stand upon the bones of those who vied for their throne.