Converge - Axe to Fall

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Converge - Axe to Fall
Written By: Tim Bannock

Label: Epitaph - Rating:

I walked into my Metalholics Anonymous meeting last week and found myself on the spot: it was time that I speak up; I had a confession to make. That's never an easy thing, and in the world of Metal, sometimes tension runs strong among the brotherhood, and you have to watch what you say. Especially when it involves certain pillars, such as Metallica or Black Sabbath. Mine had to do with Slayer: I loved them, but I found a few too many of their albums to be too short.

There, I said it. Their focused attack is great and has produced some of the most terrifying riffs conceivable, but I pined for them to rage on just a little longer, to take an extra turn here or there in the instrumentation.

What does that have to do with Converge's new album -- Axe to Fall -- due out on October 20th? Simple: they put together a focused attack that satisfies, even though well over half the tracks never push the three-minute mark.

Converge is like the prototypical grindcore band, updated and bestowed with a progressive edge that rarely veers into long instrumental jams, but instead pops up as odd-timed syncopation, fluid guitar acrobatics, and melodic-but-just-this-side-of-disorientating fills. More importantly, that progressive nature exists on a larger frame, as you look through Converge's back catalog and listen to how they got from there to here. It's never a perfect transition, and not something you hear building from one moment to the next. Instead, it's something more dynamic maybe, because each album pushes a different boundary, until of these things converge (sorry, I had to!) to create an extreme metal assault that defies easy categorization, and expands your senses. Converge is one of the few bands that can blast you with a full-on metallic assault but do so in a way that you are just as likely to zone out and explore higher consciousness as you are to start swinging your fists and thirsting for blood. It's dizzying, it's unexpected, it's terrifying, and it's beautiful.

Axe to Fall is all these things, and once again, just a little bit more. The first four tracks absolutely shred your innards, as if you stepped into a wind tunnel and some sick bastard punks you by throwing glass and razorblades in with you. Opener "Dark Horse" has a sort of punk/hardcore vibe that's perfectly fitting with Converge's origins and certainly doesn't disappoint.

The following tracks, "Reap What You Sow" and the titular "Axe to Fall" have a melodic grindcore/thrash sound that couldn't be any more extreme. The album explores some droning, discordant, Godflesh-style territory on songs like "Worms Will Feed" and "Damages," but it's the final two tracks that break the most from convention. "Cruel Bloom" is bluesy, acoustic in many parts, and features Steve Von Till of Neurosis on lead vocals. It never falls into a rut, and is an expertly crafted, somber little piece of melancholy that shows the emotional range of the band. Finally, album closer "Wretched World" features a slew of guests (members of The Red Chords and Genghis Tron) and is a much more atmospheric piece, building slowly but expertly to a sonic crescendo before cutting out on a discordant, feedback laden note, almost like a flat line.

Converge consistently challenge their listeners and their musical capabilities, and come through successfully every time, it seems. Axe to Fall is no different; many more guests than I mentioned show up on this album, providing a collaborative effort but a focused album. You'd never know some of the guests are there, but at the same time, you know they bring something new to the overall dynamic, creating a masterpiece that is just as Converge has always been: dizzying, unexpected, terrifying, and beautiful. Axe to Fall will rip your face off in the most serene and satisfying way imaginable, and you couldn't die any happier than after listening to this album.

Like Converge? Check out: Burnt By The Sun, Yakuza, Candiria

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