There will be no ranking of Converge albums in this review. Why you ask? The predominant reason being that everyone has a valid opinion and due to the probability behind the number of different permutations possible with seven albums (I'm not counting Caring and Killing / Halo in a Haystack, perhaps we can agree on that), it's rather likely that I'll be wrong. The secondary reason being that as instantly recognizable as the Converge sound is, they've put together vastly different records, each well paired with a unique mood. If I may:
- Need some youthful, energetic fury that still wears its punk on its sleeve? There's a Petitioning the Empty Sky for that.
- Need perhaps the best example of abrasive, jarring, turn-of-the-century metallic hardcore? There's a When Forever Comes Crashing for that.
- Need arguably the most impressive arc of epic hardcore written in the last fifteen years? There's a Jane Doe for that.
- Need a slightly sparser, moodier journey? There's a You Fail Me for that.
- Need an odd duck of a wildly shifting, mildly-unpopular-but-still-hiding-some-gems album? There's a No Heroes for that.
- Need the hardcore world's equivalent of a hip-hop record, with guest guitar work and vocals galore, plus the band's heaviest dose of experimentalism? There's an Axe to Fall for that.
And finally, need one more reason to believe that Converge is capable of churning out quality song collections until the apocalypse and beyond? There's an All We Love We Leave Behind for that.
In keeping up with the general progression of instrumentation post-You Fail Me, this record is punctuated with Kurt Ballou's leads. They're all over the place, ranging from the energetically atonal ("Aimless Arrow") to the persistently fluttering ("All We Love We Leave Behind") to the I-wonder-if-everyone-agreed-to-this-cock-rock-tap-fest ("Sadness Comes Home"). There is also a layer of harshness to this group of tracks that is much more noticeable than on the previous two releases. The beginning of "Empty on the Inside" is packed with constant howls of feedback en route to its dirge-like, march of a mid-section. "Tender Abuse" is a classic Converge ripper, packed with blasts, a traditional punk bass-line, and a monster of a massive half-time climax.
As expected, there are a few slower numbers in All We Love We Leave Behind, most notably "A Glacial Pace" and "Coral Blue." The former may be the record's best offering, despite never even coming close to hitting the tempos for which the band is known. Instead, it blends a wall of guitar melody into a moody combination of consistently tom-heavy drums, walking bass-lines, and some seriously cool triplet leads from Ballou. "Coral Blue" aims for the soulful side, standing out for its whispery verses and catchy, borderline-orchestral group vocals.
There are a few potential low-points, though realistically speaking, they're minor things against which to file a complaint. The aforementioned "Sadness Comes Home" is probably the most polarizing track on All We Love We Leave Behind, so brace yourself for what it will take for the collective fan base to settle that matter. It's also easy to argue that when the dudes in Converge have been firing on all cylinders, their cohesive album trajectories have been just a hair short of mind-blowing. That seems to be missing here with such a weak, paint-by-numbers "Predatory Glow" running anchor on the record. It's certainly not bad, but simply a forgettable track in a group with some much more fitting closers. It's also peculiar that there is a regular version and deluxe version of this disc coming out, with the deluxe not just tacking on bonus tracks, but interspersing them into the original order. Again, coming from the same guys that put together the masterful arc of Jane Doe, it seems odd that they'd opt for releases where the track order is seemingly diminished in importance.Bottom Line:
From an objective standpoint, Converge is still very much on top of their game, with All We Love We Leave Behind maintaining all of the high precision hardcore chaos, metallic gratification, and emotional foundation that the heavy music world has been loving for years. I'm happy to add this to my unranked list of Converge records, where all blasts, riffs, dirges, and howls can be enjoyed equally.