[ 19,767 views ]
05. Weight Of The World
06. No Heroes
08. Grim Heart/Black Rose
12. Trophy Scars
13. Bare My Teeth
14. To The Lions
Reviewed by: Cory
// Published: 10/30/2006
Within certain musical circles, Converge have reached a certain revered status where (to fans and detractors alike), much like Neurosis, the release of a new album has become a rather controversial event. Hype, backlash and adoration all inevitably ensue and it's hard not to be taken in by some of it. After a solid month of listening to No Heroes, I can finally declare that it is an excellent album and a worthy continuation in a line of great releases. If You Fail Me was a striking departure from the chaos of Jane Doe, No Heroes just feels like a more subtle, welcoming You Fail Me. Those might seem like two odd words to describe anything Converge has ever done, but contextually speaking, they fit. No Heroes' many stylistic departures and experiments help make Converge's songs slightly more digestable but arguably at the cost of some of the album's overall effect.
Everything Converge has ever done has been relatively experimental at the time of its release, but No Heroes pushes fewer musical boundaries and focuses instead on experimentation within the band's own style. The first five songs all clock in under two minutes and collectively don't break the seven minute mark. "Heartache" alternates speed but never lacks aggression. "Hellbound" follows a similar formula soundwise to much the same effect. These tracks seem set to ease the listener into the record rather than immediately challenge them. "Sacrifice" is a slightly more complicated variation on the theme and ends up feeling a lot messier by comparison. This shouldn't be any surprise to those previously acquainted with the band's work, but newcomers might have a hard time with the abrasiveness of the disc's production.
"Weight of the World" slows down the disc for the first time with a guitar line that instantly calls to mind "First Light" from You Fail Me. This track is the setup for the next portion of the album, the one-two punch of the title track and "Plagues," two of my favorite tracks on the disc. Surprisingly though, "No Heroes" has a self-referential moment as well, with the end sounding nearly identical to a point in You Fail Me standout, "Dropout." While I definitely appreciate that this album is an extension of a sound the band defined with that album, I can't help but be just a bit dismayed when something like this pops up. If it's intentional, I would've like it to be just a bit more obvious because as it stands, it just seems to be a warning sign of previously unquestioned creativity running a bit low.
Thankfully, Converge follows the slightly confounding title track with my personal favorite track on the disc "Plagues." Kurt Ballou introduces an organ into Converge's repertoire for the first time and the result is one of the disc's finest moments. Even as an underscore to the guitar line, the organ creates a unique dynamic and a depth to this slower, relatively simple song. I think that this song also illustrates how fortunate the band is to be able to self-produce their albums with such high quality results. Ballou has developed into an engineering virtuoso over the last few years and this album finds him at the top of his game. It's dirty, ugly at times and incredibly gritty, but it fits the music perfectly and that's always been his strength. His production always helps establish the mood and No Heroes is another success on that ground.
One of the biggest risks on the album is the album centerpiece "Grim Heart/Black Rose" featuring lead vocals from Jonah Jenkins (Milligram, Only Living Witness). Most fans familiar with the band's earlier material can speak to the mixed results when Jake Bannon tries to carry a melodic lead vocal, so outsourcing the vocal duties on this track is a surprising but effective way of making sure this ambitious track didn't lost any of its emotional power. At nearly ten minutes, it gets close to wearing out its welcome in terms of the album listening experience, but as a standalone track, it's excellent all the way through.
The album's closing half features some of the most interesting choices but often, less interesting songs. The rock-style riffing of "Orphaned" marks an odd departure for the band, as do the intelligible vocals of "Lonewolves." These two songs sound like they've been influenced by current Detroit garage rock and progressive Kentucky hardcore. It's an odd and exciting departure for the band, but it just seems a little out of place in terms of the rest of the album. "Versus" tries to set things right again before "Trophy Scars" brings YFM's "Last Light" back for round two with a rousing chorus of "I want to live without the guilt we give. I want to die without this pain."
Sometimes the various tracks on No Heroes seem to be pulling in all different directions, but what's truly odd is that few of the songs seem to suffer from this schizophrenia individually. All the tracks feel like complete statements but the album as a whole doesn't have the cohesiveness thatdefined their last two albums. One thing that has remained consistent however is the band's artwork, packaging and lyrical content. When a band is as adventurous musically as Converge, it's nice for fans to have something they can rely on and there are no surprises in these departments.
Bottom Line: No Heroes is a fantastic collection of songs and, at times, an excellent album. The problem that I continue having with it after dozens of listens is that as good as any of its parts are, they just don't quite fit together. Converge have consistently raised the bar for themselves and this time, there's something that just hasn't quite clicked for me. There was never a point though that I stopped enjoying what I was listening to and in that sense, it's definitely a success.
view all 83 comments