Review Summary: The last two are the glue.
My girlfriend explained to me once why she enjoyed hearing a particular speaker talk. She said that throughout the main body of his speech, she was always wondering what the point was or where the speech was going. But, at the very end, the speaker would say something that made the entire talk click instantly. This is exactly what happens on Converge’s latest record, Axe to Fall
. The first eleven tracks on the album are excellent, but they do not distinguish themselves noticeably from the band’s previous works. However, as soon as the last two tracks are over the album is shed with a new light and an almost immediate re-listen is required. Talk about replay value.
This is not to say, though, that Axe to Fall
is without standout tracks elsewhere on the album. The opener “Dark Horse” is a monster of a song, beginning and ending with a fast and technical guitar riff, and supplemented in the middle of the song by a waves-crashing-over-you breakdown complete with Jacob Bannon’s ever-piercing shriek. “Damages” is another highlight, shaking off the typical Converge fury for a marching guitar and guest vocals from folk artist Tim Cohen. Tenth track “Cutter” is a heavy hitter as well, portraying the band at their quickest yet most efficient with its short 1:40 playtime.
Lyrically the album is great, and Jacob Bannon solidifies himself as one of the best extreme music wordsmiths. The lyrics are obviously not thrown in superficially after writing the songs, which unfortunately seems to be the case with many other extreme acts. Rather, they are clearly part of the songwriting process and fit spectacularly with both the mood of the album and the angst of Bannon’s vocals. The flow and imagery of the line “The blood in my eyes has taught me to defeat/The beasts at the feet of saint obscurity” from “Slave Driver” or the impassioned cry of “Dark horse ride/Toward the light” from “Dark Horse” are just two examples of Bannon’s expertise.
But what makes Axe to Fall
superb is the last two tracks. They seem at first not to fit in with the frantic sound of Converge, but their glory is in the rest they provide from the ceaseless barrage of heaviness found on the other tracks of the album. The honky-tonk piano of “Cruel Bloom” and the oddly distorted guitar notes of “Wretched World” are reminders that Converge is not a band settling to just make music; they strive to create art through their chaos. They grab hold of you and demand you pay attention, and the slower pace of the two songs also allows time to reflect on what you’ve just heard on the preceding tracks. The repeated lyric of “my wretched world” in the last track instigates another listen in order to understand exactly why the world is so wretched. And on the next listen when the guitar explodes at 3:00 of “Cruel Bloom” you understand. Converge’s Axe to Fall
is sublime, and the final two outputs of the album are the glue that holds it together.