November 4th, 2009
Converge Axe To Fall [Epitaph]
Metalcore stalwarts Converge are a musical anomaly if there ever was one. In their 19 years, the Massachussetts four-piece have carved their own niche, be it through their influential cutthroat fusion of metal, hardcore and punk, frontman Jacob Bannon’s trademark artwork and guitarist Kurt Ballou’s meticulous production work.
Since 2001’s landmark achievement, Jane Doe, the band have been on an incomparable tear, consistently matching each record’s quality to an unheard of level, while advancing a sound that’s already light years ahead. Once again pushing whatever boundaries dare stand in their way, their seventh album presents another piece of their puzzle.
Axe To Fall is without question Converge’s most inclusive recording yet. Incorporating Jane Doe’s sonic brutality, You Fail Me’s gloomy tones and the expansive textures of No Heroes, this time there are undeniable clusters of melody added to the concentrated chaos.
“Dark Horse” wastes no time establishing this, peppering the antagonistic battleground with as much melody as gunpowder in the bullet-like riffs. “Wishing Well” follows suit with a mighty d-beat to propel itself into a memorable series of gang chant choruses. And while “Worms Will Feed” isn’t nearly as instant, Ballou takes the reins with some truly beguiling doom-filled riffage that drains the life out of you and gives all the album’s punishing to that point some much needed balance.
“Dead Beat” and “Cutter” on the other hand bolster their reputation as a ruthless noise merchant; the former phases in frenzied fretwork destined to give Ballou carpal tunnel, while the latter chugs and thrashes with the same intensity as Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman in the mid-‘80s.
Taking a page out of hip-hop’s archetype, they also brought in some of hardcore and metal’s key players to pitch in. The only thing is, to Converge guest spots are merely like adding another layer to the cohesion, and so to contrast Bannon’s blood-curdling bellow, Genghis Tron’s Mookie Singerman adds an uncharacteristically clean vocal turn to give the sprawling “Wretched World” more depth.
Cave In’s Steve Brodsky also pitches in on “Effigy,” but it’s Steve Von Till of Neuroris who makes the most impact with his contribution. “Cruel Bloom” is the biggest statement Converge have made in years. The sombre acoustic guitars and floating reverb give Von Till a canvas to paint on with his Tom Waits growl. And while it veers off into Floydian psychedelia, the density is as heavy as when they immerse themselves in breakneck hardcore.
While most bands struggle with identity two albums in, Converge continue to forge on with their seventh, sounding as fresh and hostile entering their third decade as they did in their first. Axe To Fall is yet another testament to Converge’s supremacy. Nobody should be surprised.
- Cam Lindsay