Currently standing at an incredible 22 years as a band, the undisputed kings of chaotic hardcore, Converge of Salem, Massachusetts, here release their seventh studio album ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’. A band that can easily be considered the most influential of their peers, there have been many pretenders to their throne, but their blend of unrelenting heaviness, piercing anguish and moments of true, unmistakeable beauty sees them head and shoulders above the writhing masses. Every album, or at least all of their efforts of the 21st century so far, brings with it something truly exceptional, whether it be their astonishing technical ability, second-to-none songcraft or wreaking absolute havoc in the live arena, this record has a lot to live up to.
Fortunately, it does not disappoint for one solitary second. The record commences with ‘Aimless Arrow’, which got mouths salivating in anticipation when released as a video a few weeks ago. Converge have a tradition of beginning an album in fine form – ‘Concubine’ from ‘Jane Doe,’ ‘First/Last Light’ from ‘You Fail Me’, ‘The Saddest Day’ from ‘Petitioning The Empty Sky’ and ‘Dark Horse’ from ‘Axe To Fall’ to name a few, and this is no exception. A sprawling piece that sees vocalist Jacob Bannon use his impressive clean vocals over a typically frenetic Kurt Ballou riff, it puts one in the mind of Californian hardcore band Touché Amoré, who join Converge on their UK jaunt in November.
After the vaguely diminishing return, transitional status of ‘No Heroes’, which just lacked that “je ne sais quoi” of previous outings, 2009’s ‘Axe To Fall’ was seen as a blistering return to form, and this picks up right where it left off on second track ‘Trespasses’, crashing in with an impact tantamount to that of being smashed in the face repeatedly by a concrete slab. It’s disgusting, it’s vicious, it’s classic Converge. This album barely allows you to take a breath before plunging you back into its ferocity; where previous records have been fierce, this is foaming-at-the-mouth rabidly deranged; the band hare through tracks at breakneck speed, and before you know it, another labyrinthine titanic riff has struck up.
The band seem to have got the balance between the full-on assault and the sludgier, heavier side absolutely dead-on – witness the yin and yang of ‘Sparrow’s Fall’ and ‘A Glacial Pace’, for example. The former follows on in a similar vein to the preceding fare, whereas ‘A Glacial Pace’ utilises elements of hellish atmosphere building crowned by Bannon’s pained howl. Even after more than two decades in the game, they still have the ability to take you by surprise, as they do in the venture into classic 80’s d-beat on ‘Vicious Muse’ – after being at the very top of the game for so long, the four-piece still give a nod to their heroes.
Like ’Cruel Bloom’ and ‘In Her Shadow’ on previous records (‘Axe To Fall’ and ‘You Fail Me’ respectively), ‘Coral Blue’ will become one of the most talked-about moments of this record for its standout bluesy experimentation. A momentary speck of light in the unstoppable avalanche of brutailty, it comes closest on this record to breaking the 5 minute mark – this is certainly a succinct record if nothing else! Unfortunately, the album nearly brings its curtain down on something of a sour note, as eponymous track ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ is an almost note-for-note re-run of ‘Aimless Arrow.’ Luckily, ‘Predatory Glow’ is redeemingly menacing, drawing things to a close in satisfactory fashion, driven by ominous gang-vocals and superb drum-fills by Ben Koller.
The number one factor in Converge’s prominence has been consistency and incremental improvement, evolution and not revolution; they’ll probably never make another landmark record like ‘Jane Doe,’ because no-one deserves to go through the heartache it took to make that album a second time. It’s taken the fine work laid down by ‘Axe To Fall’ and pushed the boundaries once again, and made another jaw-dropping album to drop into their sublime canon. Converge making an exciting and innovative record is as inevitable (to their fanbase) as death and taxes, and this record is no exception. A phenomenal offering from one of the best bands still standing today.
‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ by Converge is released on Monday 8th October on Epitaph Records.
Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)