Review Summary: Aggressive and over the top, "No Heroes" is an emotion-packed trip, but it ultimately fails due to the lack of coherency and song structure.
In earlier times, the word “chaos” really referred to unpredictability (or even to the Greeks as “to be wide open”), but due to some misunderstanding of early Christian uses of the word, it had its meaning changed to something like “disorder”. The meaning stuck with the word, and now is a common term for anything out of the ordinary or sporadic. In a sense, however, Converge
appears to have combined both the past and present definitions of that word.
Emerging from Boston in 1990, Converge
is often credited as pushing the limits of metalcore through the blend of hardcore punk and extreme metal and helping to define the genre. With their past release “Jane Doe”, they were even described as “math” metal, which put them along the lines of bands such as Meshuggah
(though I believe they sound nothing alike except in their approach to song writing). However, a raging conflict has been going since the band’s birth on what exactly they are, since the members seem to distance themselves from the typical metalcore scene. With their latest release, “No Heroes”, they aim to distance themselves even more by delving into a darker and even more aggressive atmosphere.
‘Chaos’, in all of its definitions, is what this album is. It’s vast, disorderly, and unpredictable, and there-in lies its downfall. There seems to be little direction on “No Heroes”, and their attempt at ‘controllable chaos’ explodes in their faces repeatedly. The first 5 tracks, which are a grand total of about 6 minutes all together, attempt to strangle the listener into submission from vein-bursting screams and heavily distorted pummeling riffs, but the grip that it puts around the listener's neck is rather flimsy, as it slips off quite quick. While they sound exactly the same, these few songs were meant to roll together as one, so to call them carbon-copies of one another isn’t exactly fair, but the songs fail their purpose. Hell-bent on infusing the listener into a sea of emotion, they very well could possibly miss the mark with most, and instead can cause confusion as to what direction they’re supposed to be going in. Take for example the opening track “Heartache”. While the opening riff is downright punishing, Converge
begins to fire off in all directions that almost feels as if you have to focus on one member at a time instead of soaking it in. It's a bit overbearing, to be honest.
Each of the songs showcased on “No Heroes” seems to be written with the purpose for the listener to share their pain and frustration, but when there is no coherency, this cannot be achieved in the first place. The songwriting is completely dumbfounding, as each member appears to be gifted, but they lack the ability to play together. The title track and “Bare My Teeth” show the drums, guitar/bass, and vocals flying all over the place uncontrollably. This “chaos” that they create isn’t enough to actually fit a song, as the guitars do one thing, while the vocals do another; they simply never seem to mix together too well. In simpler terms, they gave themselves huge room for playing, but never really brought it together. Bands such as Theory in Practice
(the song “Dehumanized” comes to mind) use this approach, but there’s an underlying sense of order that connects all of the members that Converge
seems to lack on “No Heroes”.
The vocals are a bit of mix bag overall. While there certainly is an aggressive force pushing out of Jacob Bannon’s mouth, it seems as if they didn’t “up” the volume on it during the mixing stages. It sounds too blended in and very indistinguishable. “Orphaned” is a prime representation of this, as he sounds like another distorted guitar chugging along. His lyrics are actually quite good, with lines such as “No more heroes, No more no more! In my world of enemies I walk alone!
”, which would’ve been amazing and moving if you could hear them. And when you can make him out, he sounds like nails against a chalkboard. He’s a bit too harsh, but the appearance of guest vocalist Jonah Jenkins on “Grim Heart / Black Rose” incorporates some wonderful clean singing, which helps contrast against Jacob's harsh voice. Unfortunately, the second part of the song sees him returning to his past form.
Un-coordination aside, “No Heroes” does possess two rather enjoyable songs: “Grim Heart / Black Rose” and “Trophy Scars”. Both feature great musicianship, as well as what appears to be coherency between the members. Not only that, those are the two songs in which Jacob turns to his clean singing approach, which gives off a wonderful calming sensation.
In the end, “No Heroes” lacks order. It’s too sporadic and chaotic for its own good, and it ends up crashing due to that. The members go off on their own too many times and don’t regroup except for really two songs. There’s talent to be found here, but they need to play together in order to advance.
Grim Heart / Black Rose