You Fail Me
may be the best album in Converge’s sparkling discography, and You Fail Me Redux
is a wholesale improvement on the original. Taking 2004’s Alan Douches-helmed scuzzfest--an angry and strange and unforgettable album--into his own hands, Kurt Ballou proceeded to make it sound like the other Converge records he’s produced, the excellent pair of 2009’s Axe to Fall
and 2012’s All We Love We Leave Behind
primary among them. And the record opened up.
Sans tense minute-long drone opener “First Light,” the differences are immediately apparent in “Last Light,” one of the most moving second-person paeans Converge has ever written; here, Jacob Bannon’s throaty pleas fling out onto the sonic landscape weaved by Ben Koller’s octopus-arms drumming and thickly ominous guitar and bass. The cleanly recorded climax (“This is for the hearts still beating!” Bannon screams, as if it were his task to revive them) feels like it vanquishes any claim to a superior rawness or authenticity on the part of the original: what else is this but the sound of a band marshaling its collective emotion to mesh with their instrumental chops, so that the last thirty seconds of “Last Light” sounds like a little prefiguration--you know, jus’ for fun--of Liturgy, or whatever, but way better than Liturgy (or whatever)?
You should know that “Last Light” leads directly into the swirling locust swarm of “Black Cloud”. “Black Cloud” features the best Ballou/Newton vocal ever--and yes, Redux
allows you to hear the whack of phlegm against the throat on this beauty. And then “Drop Out” opens with the most slammin’ riff and functions as a masterclass in Converge’s songwriting technique at its best, demonstrating their proficiency at quickly modulating the mood of a song while continuously ratcheting up the intensity. Yet again we see the production bequeath to the music its proper energy, culminating in an epic second half in which Bannon, over needling guitars, wails one of his simplest nihilistic assertions: “Drop out!” You won't hear a more thrilling ten minutes of music in the entire metalcore canon (unless it's maybe the beginning of Axe to Fall
, or Jane Doe
The second half of You Fail Me
is considerably more perplexing, operating in starts and fits and throwing a few instrumental wrenches into the machine, most particularly on the gorgeous and appealingly gnomic closer “Hanging Moon”. But though its pleasures are more withdrawn, they too are indelible when given their turn. The almost funky opening strut to “Heartless” sleekly transforms into the glacial pace of live favorite “You Fail Me”. And though I don’t think anyone will complain when the band doesn’t bust out “In Her Shadow” for their (amazing) live show, it does lead into the spectacular metalcore hoedown “Eagles Become Vultures”.