Converge

Axe To Fall

Written by: AP on 27/11/2009 20:11:15

Converge are one of the most innovative, influential, fiercely independent and venerated acts in hardcore – a band which takes their music with a restrained, albeit very intense sense of seriousness, and strives to redefine the genre with every release and venture where others would falter. The band played a vital role in blurring the lines between extreme metal and hardcore with their groundbreaking "Jane Doe" album in 2001, and have since continued to reinterpret their sound, with the darker, more brooding tones of "You Fail Me", and the epic song structures and spacious arrangements on "No Heroes", blending increasingly experimental elements into their core, white-hot intensity.

Unlike many other bands considered influential, Converge have not settled into a comfortable groove where their longevity is made possible by giving their fans exactly what they want. This band's strength lies not in familiarity, but in their willingness to always push the boundaries and expand their own musical horizons. "Axe to Fall" is perhaps the best example yet, of the band's deliberate lack of complacency. The distinct Converge sound we came to know and love with "Jane Doe" is still at the core – but it has matured into something far more experimental and complex, with songs ranging from the familiar, brief assaults of unadulterated fury to drone-and-pummel and slow atmospheric pieces.

The opening portion of the album consists of what every single person who listens to Converge wants to hear as "Dark Horse" introduces a ringing bass line transcending atop some seriously mouthwatering polyrhythmic drumming – an atmosphere which immediately brings to mind the beauty, yet unshackled brutality of songs like "Bitter And Then Some" and "Concubine". But when the brilliantly melodic, progressive guitar lead commandeers the song and the vocals wind their way around inhuman shrieking, punk-inspired chanting, and even borderline clean singing, it is immediately obvious that "Axe to Fall" is in a different class entirely than its predecessors. The song structures are completely unpredictable and change with each passing song, from the neck-breaking title track to the droning epic "Wretched World" – which might as well have been written by Tom Waits.

While Converge easily deliver some of their most furious and devastating tracks to date on their own ("Dark Horse", "Worms Will Feed", "Losing Battle", "Dead Beat" and "Slave Driver"), a large component of the album comes from the ensemble of guest musicians the band has amassed, with (ex-)members of 108, Blacklisted, Cave In, Des Ark, Disfear, Entombed, Genghis Tron, Hatebreed, Himsa, Neurosis, Pygmy Lush, The Red Chord and The Rodeo injecting their personal touches on eight of the thirteen tracks. In Jacob Bannon's own words, the album is the realization of his long standing vision to put together a collaboration album with some of the band’s closest friends. But do not be alarmed – this is not your usual collaborative effort where a spotlight is cast upon the various contributions as they appear.

Instead, the various contributors involve themselves in the music of Converge in a most refined and seamless manner, and in fact the only clues that guest musicians might be present are the easily discernible cameos on the haunting ballads "Cruel Bloom" and "Wretched World", which feature Steve Von Till (Neurosis) and Aimee Argote (Des Ark), and Mookie Singerman (Genghis Tron) on lead vocals respectively. Members of Converge follow their compatriots effortlessly into the melee, alternating between supporting and leading roles when needed, with the result that some songs (like "Effigy" and the aforementioned "Wretched World") contain as many as three guitarists and drummers, and sound absolutely monumental.

One might expect that the inclusion of such a wide cast of guest stars would cause the band’s frame to bloat an inch or two, but instead, it has only made their sound more rigid and dynamic. That the band is able to welcome so many guests into their craft while retaining their own identity stands as testament to just how definable their metallic noise has become over the years. A very mature and controlled feeling of complete chaos lies within each and every guitar riff and drum beat, every scream is brought forth with the sincerest emotion, and every lyric has been written with a specific issue in mind. It sounds complicated, but when you listen to the music it shines through as no descriptive words could, because within the psychotic chaos are moments of strange beauty which will leave sworn Converge loyalists scratching their heads at what exactly the band wants to convey with this album.

Converge has always ventured to the fringe of what is possible musically, but "Axe to Fall" raises the bar to an unprecedented extent. It is a step above the band's previous work both in terms of maturity and musicianship (if lacking the rawness and heart-wrenching despair of "Jane Doe"). The ferocity that tears through much of this album is uncanny, and leaves in its wake a maelstrom of viscera and dismembered limbs, but where other bands might have settled for merely annihilating our senses, the rage and bitterness has been beefed up to something bolder and more intelligent, to form an album that is almost impossible to classify. Its progressive underspinnings and bouts of experimentation actually amplify the band's aggression, and coupled with a huge increase in velocity and a slightly more refined production, "Axe to Fall" sees Converge at their absolute fastest, heaviest, and most merciless. "Axe to Fall" is an album that defines all of the band's best traits while setting the foundations for future exploration, and a perfect way to cap off another decade of forerunning.

9

Download: Dark Horse, Reap What You Sow, Axe to Fall, Dead Beat, Cruel Bloom

For the fans of: Beecher, Botch, The Dillinger Escape Plan

Listen: Myspace

Release date 19.10.2009

Epitaph

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