Review Summary: I never knocked a kid's face in.
Honestly, I have no idea what Converge is; to me, they’re just one more band on my iPod. They have punk in them, they have hardcore in them, but they thrash as hard as any metal band, they bring the doom as much as any metal band, and, overall, they fu
cking kick ass. Even on Axe to Fall.
The album is a natural cohesion between slick metal riffs and a variety of other influences; this isn’t like Protest the Hero where you throw in whatever you want at any time and just say “Here it is, listen to it you prick!” This is where your influences are so submerged into the music that it’s a bitch to identify them. Most of the influence outside of the metal realm is a punk/hardcore influence, and thus it does become a task to try and categorize Converge, especially since they don’t want you to and you’re a fool for trying you ontologically inclined bastard and it’s people like you that I can’t stand because you’re always trying to categorize bands into little niches when they obviously don’t want to be and I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re a mentally unstable necrophiliac you strange person. To the point, Converge’s influences are noticeable in the hardcore vocal stylings, the punk-like drumming, and the eerily Nine Inch Nails reminiscent droning down tempo sections; Cruel Bloom’s first section seems almost like a mixture of Blues and Doom. The album doesn’t show its influences on its sleeve though, Converge is quick to remind you that they’re not Slayer or Botch, they’re Converge goddammit. Every influence is meshed into the fold of the music, not used as a focal point; in essence, Converge do what a band should do, they use their influences to build onto and with to create their own unique style. It’s like a soup; every ingredient has its own certain flavor or texture, but it’s the end product’s taste on the whole that’s important. And Converge have made a very tasty soup.
Converge made a statement saying this album isn’t as heavy as it could have been, and they’re right, and that makes the album all that much better. Some bands get so caught up in trying to “br00t4liz3” their album that they forget that the majority of people don’t want to hear a wall of insanity for 42 minutes non-stop; some sacrifice musical integrity to bring the d00m (Emmure, anyone?) Converge, luckily, are not retards and understand that music is a balancing act of dynamics; the crunching guitar sections are mellowed out by the down-tempo drum and bass fill, just like the slow, droning crush builds to the tension released in the speed metal riffs later. Converge have created an insanely well written album in terms of dynamic phrasing; Dead Beat’s 2:36 begins with the drums blasting, but the guitar, bass, and vocal lines remaining relatively “still” until the point where the harmony peaks and implies that the dynamics should change, creating a beautiful release of tension into the balls-out riffing that follows. The entire album is a build and release, like any good metal album should be; 42 minutes of face kicking would just get, well, boring.
At this point I’m supposed to say “Here’s what Converge does wrong.” After all, why the 4.5 if I didn’t have detriments to point out?
Converge are amazing.
Axe to Fall is amazing.
The clean vocals, the grit-scarred screams, the guttural yells, all are spot on. The drums kick ass. The bass is not only audible, it actually serves a purpose. Of course the guitars are excellent, and pretty much the music is spotless. It’s the little things that provide nuisances; the intro of Worms Will Feed is too long, for example, if only by a few seconds. Reap What You Sow’s beginning sounds extremely similar in tone and rhythm to Dark Horse; they aren’t the same, but perhaps placing the songs farther apart rather than in sequence would’ve benefited the overall sound of the album. There are spots where the album grows and builds with excruciatingly excellent dynamical and musical intensity, and there are moments where the album drags its feet. They’re not often, just enough to notice.
An esteemed reviewer wrote “This album is pretty much like knocking face in for 45 minutes, plus breakdowns” in reference to Jane Doe. Axe to Fall is more like finding a guy on the street, throwing him into the back alley, beating his face and then pulling out a knife and slowly slicing off his manly parts, then leaving him to slowly die from blood loss; what that slightly disturbing simile is supposed to convey is that Axe to Fall isn’t brutal for the sake of brutality, it’s a very calculated mixture of death blows and moments of quiet, desperation. If you were constantly punched in the face for 45 minutes it would eventually become, dare I say, unexciting; if a man spent 42 minutes where he kicked your ass, then let you watch as he pulled out the knife from his pocket and slowly prepared to carve off pieces of you, the sheer terror you’d receive from watching him prepare the knife would leave in you shock and awe. This album gives you moments to breathe, it sits you down with a bleeding side and says “Now you’re going to watch as I prepare to further destroy your will to live” and then continues with its demented acts of insanity. In short, Axe to Fall doesn’t kick ass like a playground bully, it murders like a serial killer playing mind games. Sick, spirit-crushing, suspenseful mind games.