Review Summary: We may get better...we won't get well.
Converge is the kind of band that really doesn’t give a shit
. Keeping up their degree of productivity means they are hardly going to be lamenting over how the last record sounded or how fans subsequently reacted. They don’t care if you found Jane Doe
a difficult pill to swallow, or if you though that You Fail Me
couldn’t live up to its predecessors – in Converge’s world, it’s a “done, on to the next one” attitude that keeps them going. Maybe it’s for this reason that Axe to Fall
, a relentless beast of metalcore at its truest sense, is the most refreshing and interesting thing the band have put down on record. Not in any mood to attempt to please “old school” fans – or anybody else for that matter – the quartet continues their assault on the ears with a little more of an eye towards concept and structure, yet maintaining their unapologetic force that keeps fans so interested in their work to begin with.
Axe to Fall
, in somewhat typical Converge fashion, chooses not to give its listeners a moment to sink into the atmosphere. It turns out to be more of a plunge-dive – in less than ten minutes, we’re already four tracks in. “Dark Horse”, “Reap What You Sow”, the title track and “Effigy” all come charging full speed ahead in a blur of pounding, racing drums, chunky riffs and Jacob Bannon’s guttural roar of excruciatingly pessimistic poetry (“I need to stop this suicide machine/I need to stop this self-destruction”). It’s hard to contemplate whether the band has been around just long enough in order for them to have established a ‘vintage’ sound; but should they have done, this is the closest they’ve come to defining and replicating it.
It’s around the time that “Worms Will Feed / Rats Will Feast” kicks in that we notice the band’s notion towards significant progression. The six-minute number maintains several of the band’s best-known traits, but expands them and develops them in a series of musical movements. Possibly the most hard-hitting is the drawn-out breakdown, which makes the musical crashes land with far more force given the distance between them. Bannon’s delivery of gory couplets such as “Saw you slither around their necks/Sinking teeth into their flesh” certainly don’t detract from the no-bullshit
brutality, either – this is the exact same brand of ruthless, abrasive music that is streamlined down a different path. Of course, there are moments on Axe to Fall where the band fall into a lapse of repetition, reworking the same construct of ideas and emotions. This is particularly the case in the album’s second half in bite-sized numbers like “Losing Battle” and “Cutter”. Given, it adds to the album’s consistency flow. However, it fails to contribute a lot more than that.
It is also interesting to note the plethora of additional musicians that make appearances on the record. Of these, it is those that appear on the final two tracks, “Cruel Bloom” and “Wretched World”, that contributes the most to proceedings. Sounding initially like a Tom Waits-themed carnival ride before plummeting into the pits of the apocalypse, this sinister duo of tracks throws a complete curveball to listeners and take the album’s apocalyptic worldview into the depths of the dark-side. Vocalists Steve von Till of Neurosis and Mookie Singerman of Genghis Tron give the songs an entirely new dimension that the core band could not possibly provide – this was a very wise collaboration to make. On the other tracks, however, any marks of identifiable appearances are tided over in the ever-continuing musical stampede the record presents for its most part. This is to the extent that if you were not already informed that there were other musicians on these tracks, you certainly would not have guessed it yourself.
In spite of some peering faults, Axe to Fall
is the closest the band have come yet to eliminating their imperfections. Regardless of what your history with the band is, you’ve nothing to lose by experiencing this record – despite its overwhelmingly pessimistic lyrical outlook, the album will most likely be a positive experience for its listeners.