Review Summary: The kings of hardcore have returned to provide another brutal beatdown on all of their willing victims.
It’s no secret that Converge has long been the envy of its peers, releasing one critically acclaimed album after another while garnering elite status amongst its followers. Petitioning The Empty Sky
, Jane Doe
, You Fail Me
, and Axe to Fall
are all household names amongst avid hardcore fans, and at this point the questions of consistency and longevity have already been answered. With All We Love We Leave Behind
, Converge has made very few modifications; and the lack of discernible differences means that we are in for more of the same from the Salem, Massachusetts hailing quartet.
Of course when I say more of the same
, the implication is that Converge has upheld their lofty standards whilst delivering another knockout blow to listeners. Those craving the band’s heavy-hitting approach will receive just that, as nearly every song is packed with Bannon’s guttural screams, Ballou’s blaring riffs, Newton’s deeply audible bass, and Koller’s demented, off-the-wall drumming. To put it simply, Converge will lay you to waste. And if you aren’t listening to this band to have the shit absolutely kicked out of you, then you are probably approaching it with the wrong expectation.
All We Love We Leave Behind
is the sound of an already unhinged band becoming completely deranged. Almost as if to taunt listeners, the band chose ‘Aimless Arrow’ to open the record – a song in which Jacob Bannon’s vocals veer dangerously close to actual singing. For diehard fans, this could be a turn-off. However, it is far from indicative of what the album as a whole possesses, merely existing as a bridge to bedlam. The ensuing ‘Trespasses’ is a full-on assault of raucous percussion, indecipherable screaming, and intricately woven guitar riffs/bass lines. The song arrives with the impact of a two ton truck smacking into a glass house, utilizing every nasty, ugly production trait to the band’s advantage to make it one of the most depraved sounding tracks in their entire discography. Its tremendous speed also betrays the more calculated rhythm established by ‘Aimless Arrows’, setting a precedent for the anarchy that ensues for the remainder of the album.
Other early tracks such as ‘Tender Abuse’ and ‘Sadness Comes Home’ unflinchingly hold the battleground, barraging us with waves of sludgy riffs that create an atmosphere as opposed to driving the song. There isn’t a wide array of changes to be noted on this record from a stylistic standpoint, but the ever-emerging presence of drummer Ben Koller is one of them. It is difficult not to notice how he takes charge of songs like these, filling every possible second with something jaw-dropping. Of the two aforementioned tunes, the former is perhaps one of the most noticeable instances – dragging us into the murky depths of his psychopathic cadence and raising our pulses to match the machinegun tempo he employs throughout. Although on a simpler level, ‘Empty On The Inside’ also puts Koller’s talents on full display. The military-style drumming that spans the song’s midsection is the highlight of the two and a half minute piece, corralling the album back into a controlled tempo – but only for long enough to accentuate the transition back into utter devastation.
‘Sparrow’s Fall’ overloads your senses in the same way that ‘Dead Beat’ from Axe to Fall
did, only this time think of a higher emphasis on sludgy riffs and heavy percussion. There really isn’t another moment of respite on the entire album save the title track, so it’s safe to assume that words like “insane”, “chaotic”, and “aggressive” apply to everything from here on out. ‘A Glacial Pace’ sees a ‘Dark Horse’-like return to electric guitar forefront display, which competes with Bannon’s deranged growling and an awesomely vile bass line but ultimately outshines all of them. ‘Vicious Muse’ functions perfectly with ‘Veins and Veils’ as a one-two punch (which truly feels like a one-two punch...directly in the face), and it sets up the slightly more experimental ‘Coral Blue’ for success. The latter alternates tempo more frequently than the other songs on All We Love We Leave Behind
, showing the kind of artistic touch that Converge typically includes in small doses on each of their albums (think ‘Jane Doe’ and ‘Cruel Bloom’). ‘Shame In The Way’ burns the album’s final flame, in a sense, providing one last exclamation point on the record’s harshest moments before settling into the embers of the final three tracks.
Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the tranquil appearance of those three embers, however – each one still burns white hot with the rage of all the preceding tracks combined. For all intents and purposes, ‘Precipice’ and ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ are the same song, with the prior serving as a prelude to the title track. ‘Precipice’ is a gorgeous instrumental, conjuring up images of damned souls wandering the earth and carrying their chains – desperate for relief but knowing that it will never arrive. And with that arrives the shockingly accessible intro to ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’, featuring midtempo drumming that is eventually joined by an insanely catchy riff that could almost be mistaken for metalcore. Whatever negative connotations that come with that comparison are quickly dispelled though, as the track shifts its focus back towards the murkiness and vocal belligerence that defines the album. ‘Predatory Glow’ draws the curtain in dramatic fashion, driven by gang-vocal screams and intermittent drum fills. To call it a slow-burner would be wrong...it is more of a final cry that passes by with a hellish fury. Like an ominous cloud on the horizon, it looms threatening – instilling listeners with the sense that even though All We Love We Leave Behind
is over, they are still not safe from Converge’s wrath.
All We Love We Leave Behind
is yet another successful achievement to add to Converge’s lauded canon. It lacks the novelty to reach the heights of some of its earliest predecessors, but it continues to drive nails into the coffins of competing hardcore/metal bands. Converge has become synonymous with consistency, and the band’s latest effort proves that after seven albums they still have what it takes to put their listeners through hell in the best kind of way. There aren’t many bands like that still out there today, and even as they continue to lightly decorate their exterior with new ideas, their core sound has remained the same. So here’s to hardcore’s measuring stick and one of the greatest bands alive: long live the king.