Review Summary: Legendary metalcore band, Converge, release a solid and well refined album with Axe to Fall.
What can be said about Converge that hasn't already been said to death? I could go on and on about how they rape your ears, bash your face in, and rape your ears some more. Or I could liken them to some grisly murder scene where the victim was brutalized beyond recognition. However, that's not entirely necessary, nor is it fair to everything the band has done throughout their career. Yes, Converge was a driving force in the early days of metalcore. And yes, they approach their art with a very hardcore mindset. Yet with Axe to Fall I feel it necessary to throw aside the overly brutal and cliched comparisons. To put it plainly, this album is more than a hardcore mess on a disc.
To answer the question on everyone's mind, this does in fact trump Jane Doe in certain areas. However, I say this even though the two are difficult to compare. Jane Doe was slightly darker and moodier, with a more cohesive theme throughout. Yet Axe to Fall shows how Converge have grown as a band. There is definite progression, especially in song structure. That being said, Axe to Fall may be what Jane Doe haters have been waiting for. Not to say this is any less "brutal," but the changes in sound make this album much more accessible. Thankfully, there is plenty for newcomers and fan boys alike to enjoy.
Converge have always been a band at the top of their game, and on Axe to Fall things are no different. To say they are better than ever wouldn't be an exaggeration in the slightest. Writing about the guitar alone is a daunting task. Kurt Ballou can play as fast and hard as artist this generation. He stated that he listened to more progressive bands during the albums creation, and in certain areas it definitly shows. Some of the new material is almost "fun," a term unheard of in a Converge album. For example, there are some incredibly catchy solos on both "Wishing Well" and "Cutter" that can be described as such. Much of the new found sound can be attributed to the guest guitarists found on Axe to Fall. However, Kurt's playing is not without it's faults, as he sometimes can get stuck on one riff for too long.
When someone says they dislike Converge, the vocals are always at the center of their aversion. Jacob Bannon has not changed his style much over the years, but guest vocals do make several appearances on the album. Genghis Tron’s Mookie Singerman, Neurosis' Steve Von Till, Blacklisted's George Hirsch, Disfear's Uffe Cederlund, and John Pettibon perform vocals on five different tracks. In no way do they detract from the album, instead they infuse it with much more color and variation. "Cruel Bloom" and "Wretched World" are the album's emotional high points, thanks to the excellent guests present.
Axe to Fall has some amazing tracks. "Worms Will Feed" is dark and moody, and "Dead Beat" has some great tempo changes that keep the whole song rather interesting. Yet the high points of the album are found at the very beginning and very end. "Dark Horse" is one of the years best openers. Fast paced and frenzied, it serves as a rather tumultuous start to the album. "Wretched World" can only be described as beautiful. Its slow, solemn, and above all else, emotional. Unfortunately, Axe to Fall has some uninspired tracks that are tough to ignore. The title track is little more than a short,chaotic, and spazy song. "Cutter" and "Losing Battle" also fit this description.
Axe to Fall is a solid realease by a band of epic proportions. Some may find it difficult to get past the more abrasive aspects, but for those who do will be treated to a well polished and varied album.