Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Album Review: Converge's All We Love We Leave Behind

This is one of the more difficult reviews for me to write. And I don't mean this in any sort of repressed emotional trauma attached to said band/album. Quite the opposite. Converge's new album All We Love We Leave Behind has consumed most of my listening space - at work, at home, in the car - honestly, I can't remember having something in such heavy rotation since Radiohead released In Rainbows. This is partly why the review has taken me longer than expected. For something so great, I figured I'd have this done in a minute. But it became more than that.

While talking to a friend of mine about the new album, he started to mention that one of the greatest things about Converge is their ability to get better at what they do. This is a group of guys who, over the past 15 years, have really grown into themselves in the best way possible. It's like that kid from Harry Potter who was ass-ugly, but then turned out to be this:

It's odd.

But Converge never started out as a buck-toothed nobody. For the most part, they've had a really solid career. This is why reviewing this album took so long. After sitting with AWLWLB, I started to go back and listen to Axe to Fall...then No Heroes...and basically just ran through their entire discography. And although they have a dynamic set of releases, All We Love We Leave Behind easily sets the bar high for what is to come from Converge.

One of our own writers Ben Goodheart admitted to withstanding from any sort of listen to Converge for the fact that "it scared him." He's not alone on this. My first introduction to Converge came when I bought Jane Doe on vinyl. Now, I enjoy metal and some of the offshoot genres it produces, but I never really could put a finger on what Converge was trying to do. It was loud, incredibly abrasive, but also hard to turn away from. These four guys knew what they were doing, and with each release their overall musicianship just kept becoming more refined. With AWLWLB, we see what is probably the most matured version of Converge yet.

This album is raw, not just gritty; it actually sounds like lead singer Jacob Bannon is in pain while screaming every lyric. Yes, I realize you can say that about any Converge album, and while that's true, this release is different. Produced by guitarist Kurt Ballou, this album was essentially meant to sound like one of their live shows: no production effects, no vocal harmonizers. This is Converge at their most stripped down. Also, oddly enough, probably their mathy-est release. The album opens with the single "Aimless Arrow", which is like listening to a harder These Arms Are Snakes track (i.e. THE MATH). From there on out is just an all out assault on you ears and soul. "Trespasses" leaves no time to recover and takes us back to the fast hardcore of You Fail Me. "Empty on the Inside" serves as one of the best tracks on the album, as well as one of the best Converge has recorded in some time. One of the most interesting tracks came out of "Coral Blue" which I would've immediately thought was a Mastodon song if I hadn't known the band before.

AWLWLB will go down as one of Converge's best releases. The decision to keep it as raw as they did payed off in every way the band could have hoped for. Before the album came out, my aforementioned friend said that this was going to be You Fail Me: Part 2. In a sense, he's very correct. You Fail Me covered a wide range of styles. This is partly why I went back and listened to their back catalogue before completing this review. You begin to hear them go back to previous albums within every song. You hear You Fail Me, but there's also alot of influence from Axe To Fall and No Heroes. Converge never forgets their roots, but they're also incredibly talented, enough to better themselves musically while keeping each release fresh and just as brutal as the last.

Like Kyle, I've never felt the need to really give out an A+ to anything, but honestly, Converge earned this grade up and down with the fantastic job they did with All We Love We Leave Behind. It's raw, aggressive and just impressive in every way. It's my number one release of 2012 for me, so far...

Grade: A+

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