Monday, October 19, 2009

Converge - Axe To Fall

This time they are built for war
Being active since the 1990s but gaining prominence not just from the hardcore scenes but the metal scenes all around the world during the new millennium with 2001's mathcore monster Jane Doe, Converge knows what they want in a new record and we all love it every time. The only thing we can do about it when we wait is just never expect anything and enjoy everything during initial listen. It's been the case when Converge signed on to Epitaph Records where mostly constructed of punk. With You Fail Me (2004) and No Heroes (2006), they treaded different grounds with left turns including the AmRep/NeurIsis induced You Fail Me title track and the doom and thrashtastic "To The Lions" from No Heroes.

Seven albums later and almost two decades long of intensity and traveling the world, Converge has something new out for us to drool over. A recent case just weeks before the release (or the full stream at the band's own MySpace) the review watermarked copy of Axe To Fall was leaked onto the internet for a lot of people to keelhaul over. Even if downloaded by the masses, Converge finally made something that not only make the owning of the album well worth it but made the most engaging record I have heard this year.

Official music video, probably NSFW
I can safely say that if you have listened to past Converge albums, you can say it's an amalgamation of them and then some. Combining the technicality and unpredictability of Jane Doe, the ferocity of You Fail Me, and the extreme metal tendencies of No Heroes (along with nuances of 1998's When Forever Come Crashing), they wisely balanced their use of what they have learned in the past to make an effective product while still following their of tradition of following experimental paths. Odd that some of these songs sound similar to songs on their previous two albums. The benefit of this is that these songs feel more developed than their older pieces. It includes the out-slayered Slayer-esque "Cutter" ("Vengeance","No Heroes" and "Black Cloud"), the grooved up "Slave Driver" ("Lonewolves"), and the fast "Losing Battle" ("Heartless").

Besides some great familiarities, the album continues to take different directions outside the main sound spectrum. If you have listened to the stronger bands on singer Jacob Bannon's Deathwish Inc. label, you can hear some pure influences of Disfear and label alumni Trap Them on "Wishing Well;" death' n' roll more bastardized. Apparently enough the differed songs consists of the more slower tempoed epic tracks than usual to balance out the overall heaviness to create a more varied and open album. "Cruel Bloom" brings a folkpocalypse sound with seemingly distanced brooding/depressing piano and acoustic guitar while providing an almost ethreal like feeling with the guest vocals including Neurosis' Steve Von Till. The finale "Wretched World" tries to set the listener on a ethreal (it even sound like a credits song to an epic RPG that was cut for not being overcompressed J-Pop or some obvious reason) journey of layers upon layers of drums, vocals, and guitar helped by members of Genghis Tron, The Red Chord, and Cave In.

The most intriguing thing about Axe To Fall is the high amount of guests that contributed to the album. They range from just doing backing vocals for one line (Himsa's John Pettibone on "Cutter") to almost full contribution to writing the song (ex. 3/4 of Cave In on "Effigy"). Besides people of metal/hardcore bands such as Tim Cohen of 108 and Blacklisted's George Hirsch, Converge brings in members of indie rock groups including Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor and lone female anagramed musician "The Rodeo" which even if unexpected is exciting that Converge will try someone else that doesn't shout for once.

With each Converge album, production gets better and better. Maybe No Heroes is a bit less just with the weird inaudibility of guitars and bass in places but it's good that Converge learned their lesson with this new outing. Being produced, engineered, and mixed by guitarist Kurt Ballou at his own studio, he makes the album powerful and as well as dirty. Guitars are now audible with cutting riffs and shiny leads, bass can give hope to conventional metal production that the instrument still matters and the drums have a very loud scooped feel while steps back in terms of giving the other instruments a chance. Vocals are just harsh as usual with Jacob's incomprehensible barks of destruction which says to any new listener that it's not about trying to understand what he is saying but to understand the feeling of his performance. Mastered by Alan Douches give a good amount of loudness to the intense album but at occasion passes the distortion mark which makes me question his skills.

Although with a minor fault, it's very small when compared to the larger than life sound that fills this album. I can say indeed that Converge's Axe To Fall is one of the albums to listen to of 2009. Fun for everybody because it's plain awesome. Don't waste your time downloading it from a blogspot, go freaking buy it!


Axe To Fall is available now!

Official Converge Website
Official Converge MySpace

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