Review Summary: Converge make a comeback that not only outshines No Heroes and You Fail Me, but also provides some competition for the classic Jane Doe.
Converge: Axe to Fall Review
You’re walking down the street in a crowded city block, simply walking down to the local liquor store to pick up some fun times. It dawns upon you that you could take the alleyway that cuts behind Wal-Mart. Finding this to be the faster and more efficient route, you stray away from the main road and wander down the dark, grim alley. Tiny puddles splash beneath your feet as you start to become slightly scared; the alley being a very creepy environment, and not to mention a group of shady fellahs are chilling a few yards ahead of you. So you nonchalantly attempt to walk past the people, only to be met with a knife and a threat, “Hand over the money bitch!” You do what comes as an instinct and pull out the only money in your possession: three dollars. The men then begin to mercilessly beat you into submission… rapidly kicking you in the ribs, face, and anywhere that hurts (the lower extremities being the worse). You’re left with broken ribs, bruises, cuts, gashes, and anything that describes damage done to the human body. All you feel is a constant stream of searing pain and you begin to realize you just got your ass kicked.
After listening to Converge’s newest adventure… this is how I felt. This is usually what is expected from the metalcore tyrants, but when your brain is melted and you feel happy at the same time, you know something good just went down. Thus, we enter the realm of Axe to Fall, a beautiful yet hellish realm all in the same.
While this album still features your typical Converge: bone-crushing breakdowns, sometimes blazing speeds, and vocals that equal that of a lion’s roar… it still manages to pack a few surprises. First of which includes the incredible selection of guest appearances ranging from Steve Brodsky of Cave In to Steve Von Till of Neurosis. All of the guests manage to supply unique twists to the album, one of the standout moments being supplied by Steve Brodsky. He displays huge amounts of guitar skills in the fast track “Effigy,” which begins with heavily distorted riffs, followed by Brodsky literally sexing the guitar strings. This basically goes on for the entire song, and it pretty much stands out as one of the best tracks on the album. This isn’t to say that Kurt Ballou doesn’t get his fair share of action, as he clearly displays competence in the track “Cutter.” Ballou fires mini-solos at the listener left and right almost the entire song, all of which display fair amounts of speed and emotion.
Speaking of speed, does Ben Koller ever stop providing consistently awesome fills? The answer is, simply, no. He is constantly keeping a solid rhythm going, which is especially evident in the breakdowns. Not only does Koller tear it up behind the set, but we also have J.R. Connors making a guest appearance on “Effigy” with Cave In’s Steve Brodsky. While Connors doesn’t really differentiate himself from Koller, he does a great job of keeping the excellent drumming at a consistent standard.
Everything about Axe to Fall is above average, destroying any standards I made previous to the album’s release. If that wasn’t enough, the album features a legend in the world of metal and hardcore: Jacob Bannon… who screams and sings his heart out almost the entire album. His vocals especially soar on “Worms Will Feed” where he and Nate Newton on the bass guitar trade off sorrowful and incredibly angry yells, screams, and roars. The song eventually goes into a quieter section where everything begins to build up slowly while Newton whispers, “The worms will find a way.” It then explodes into a furious bridge as both Bannon and Newton scream that same line at the top of their lungs. Raw vocals meet perfection.
This is also where the album begins to compare to Converge’s acclaimed masterpiece, Jane Doe, as “Worms Will Feed” smoothly transitions into “Wishing Well.” This is in fact so well done that if you weren’t paying close attention, you would still think you’re on track five. Axe to Fall also makes sharp comparisons to Converge’s 2006 release No Heroes, as the first four tracks are quick, to the point, and tear you to pieces. The last two songs are possibly the slowest and most emotional songs Converge have ever written. “Cruel Bloom” could be confused as a Tom Waits cover and “Wretched World” has some very striking similarities to classics such as “Farewell Note to This City” and “Grim Heart/Black Rose.” Both of these also have different lead vocalists, “Cruel Bloom” featuring the fantastically grim Steve Von Till of Neurosis, and “Wretched World” featuring a crooning Mookie Singerman of Genghis Tron. Both vocalists supply the album with an excellent dose of clean vocals.
When it comes down to it, Axe to Fall is your typical Converge, but with more technicality and even higher quantities of raw emotion. It features the smooth-flowing composition of Jane Doe and the breathtaking emotion of Petitioning the Empty Sky and No Heroes. Converge still manages to pound your mind into oblivion and provide new tweaks to their ever-changing formula. Do yourself a favor, buy Axe to Fall and realize what listening to the album of the year feels like, because there’s no doubt in my mind that the Converge has everyone beat.