[ 18,008 views ]
01. Dark Horse
02. Reap What You Sow
03. Axe to Fall
05. Worms Will Feed
06. Wishing Well
08. Losing Battle
09. Dead Beat
11. Slave Driver
12. Cruel Bloom
13. Wretched World
Reviewed by: Nick
// Published: 10/27/2009
Is there any other group more qualified than Converge to hold the 'Most Influential Hardcore Band of the Last Decade' title Converge's impact is undeniably far-reaching, whether it be in the well-carved niche of Jacob Bannon's Deathwish Inc., Kurt Ballou's constant recording presence through his Godcity studio, or even in just the sheer number of listeners deriving inspiration from the unit as a whole. At a high-level, the ability of a small group of musicians to have such a noticeable effect on an entire subculture is rather astounding. So let's give credit where credit is due. For many -- myself included -- a new Converge release is as big as it gets.
Axe to Fall is the result of the band attempting to simultaneously cover diverging paths, and managing to achieve an impressive level of success given such an arduous challenge. As with any veteran band possessing a quintessential sound, there will always be a strong pull for the act to retain the same style and mentality. Conversely, the internal desire to continually push into new sonic territories often increases exponentially as a band presses on, especially after they've eclipsed the fourth or fifth record mark. This much is relatively easy to gather, but how does it manifest itself in Axe to Fall
Well for one, the album exudes an almost restless feel when relying on "old" Converge tricks. But relying is far too strong of a word, as the band is still unparalleled in their ability to churn out metallic hardcore. The disc leads off with a trio of tracks that are immediately forceful and jarring, packing almost as much energy as the stellar one-two punch of "Concubine" and "Fault and Fracture" from Jane Doe. Take your pick of energetic leads and intermittent bursts of pounding double-bass in "Dark Horse," frantic, dive-bombing guitar work in "Reap What You Sow," or a massive breakdown in the title-track; all three showcase the qualities that listeners have come to expect out of the foursome.
But then there's a lengthy list of guest appearances attached to the record that reads like a who's who of hardcore and metal and not-so-faintly hints at the fact that the Converge camp opened themselves up for a uniquely collaborative effort (either out of artistic frustration or ingenuity -- you be the judge). What this amounts to is an interesting underbelly of Axe to Fall that attempts to move away from the expected metallic hardcore sound and eclipse the high bar for experimental departures in past albums (When Forever Comes Crashing's "Ten Cents," Jane Doe's "Phoenix in Flames," You Fail Me's "In Her Shadow," etc), albeit in a completely different manner.
The most direct example of this shows up in the pair of closing tracks, "Cruel Bloom" and "Wretched World." "Cruel Bloom" borrows the dark, crooning vocals of Neurosis' Steve Von Till to piece together a track that transitions from a somber, twang-tinged mood into a highly cathartic climax. "Wretched World" is analogous to No Heroes' "Grim Heart/Black Rose," thanks to a lead vocal effort from Genghis Tron's Mookie Singerman. How anyone discovered that Singerman could be such a great fit is beyond me, but the end product is a fantastically heavy and brooding conclusion to a record divided in musical vision, but still very much exceptional.
At the end of the day, it's clear that Converge is still trying to venture into new musical areas, all without sacrificing the sound that made the act what it is today. It's a tough goal, and although Axe to Fall might jump styles unexpectedly, it's still quite a stellar record. After all these years these guys are still at the top of their game -- a very admirable feat, indeed.
Bottom Line: Converge's Axe to Fall seems to straddle the fence between gladly delivering the sharp metallic hardcore anthems of which the band is known and venturing off into a completely uncharted songwriting territory. The musician guest list (pulling from bands like Cave In, Disfear, Blacklisted, Neurosis, and Genghis Tron) and its resulting departures showcases the desire to operate in a different sonic area better than any other aspect of the album, and although it ultimately causes Axe to Fall to fall slightly short of being a cohesive masterpiece, the variation is much appreciated. More than anything, Axe to Fall feels like a hint at a major change brewing in the minds of the band members. It appears that there are a few musical itches that need to be scratched, and makes one wonder if something massive, like a musically bipolar double album, might be on the distant horizon. That just might be the only thing left for Converge to conquer.
view all 61 comments