Converge originally came together in Salem, Massachusetts in 1989. Disregarding a few member changes way back in 1999, they have been together for 22 years. To put that in perspective, fellow hardcore group Earth Crisis has probably broken up and reformed on twenty five different occasions in the same timespan. I admit, I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but seriously: most hardcore bands don’t last five years, let alone over two decades. One might think that a band beginning its third decade together would release a few mediocre records…
…but not these guys. On All We Love We Leave Behind, Converge sounds just as vital and urgent as the band that released When Forever Comes Crashing nearly fifteen years ago. This album is as violent as anything Converge has ever done, but in tandem with the violence is something else–the sense of a 22 year old beginning to mellow out a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, this is still Converge, and they’re still beating you over the head with some of the heaviest music imaginable. Most metalcore albums beat me over the head so hard that I have to stop listening, but All We Love We Leave Behind invites constant listening. Listeners will want to find all the brutal melody hidden behind the pounding, manic riffs.
Take album opener “Aimless Arrow.” It’s led by the same style of mathy, pile-driving riff that has defined Converge for years. However, vocalist J. Bannon drops his traditional throat shredding scream. Instead, he opts for a quieter (and I use that word lightly) yell, a style akin to early ’90s screamo. Of course, by the end of the track, he’s back to hammering nails in your ears. But the melody is there, and it’s present on all 39 minutes of the record, expertly hidden by the best production job of the year.
It’s easy to forget that guitarist and engineer Kurt Ballou exists. Bannon has defined this band–his art is some of the most immediately recognizable in punk, and his label releases music from both Converge and some of the best heavy music bands of the last few years. But Ballou does exist, and he is probably the single most talented member of an immensely talented band. A brilliant guitarist–on “Trespassers” he somehow manages to fit three complex, distinct riffs and two solos in just under three minutes–he’s also one of the best producers on the planet. Every single part of All We Love–every riff, scream, breakdown and melody–is placed and adjusted to absolute perfection.
For an album this chaotic, it is astoundingly precise. The drum intro to “Vicious Muse” lasts just long enough to accentuate the sheer power of the guitar and vocals that follow it. It all gets even better when the band slows down their relentless assault. “All We Love We Leave Behind” is a downright beautiful piece of music. That won’t make much sense upon the first listen (how could something so brutal be beautiful?), but it is and that’s something only Converge could pull off.
And really, that defines Converge. It’s tempting to call them a metalcore band–they essentially founded the genre, after all–but they really aren’t. Not a single metalcore band in existence has been able to write music like Converge. All 39 minutes of All We Love are perfect. There isn’t a bad track there, and every single one will leave you wondering how on earth anyone could cram so many different elements into one piece of music and have it come out as anything but a mangled, confused mess. But this is Converge. This is what they do.
I’ve written a lot about beauty in this review, and that’s probably a bit disconcerting. By any conventional definition of the term, Converge does not write beautiful music. The band writes angry, technical and ugly bursts of manic energy that will make you want to throw off your headphones and find some music that’s a little bit nicer. I’ve never been able to get through Jane Doe, the album often viewed as their masterpiece, and I’m the kind of idiot who will namedrop Funeral Diner just because I think it makes me look cool. But even if you only listen to indie rock, I urge you–listen to this album. If you’re reading this, you probably live in Massachusetts. And you’ve got to understand–Converge is one of the most important bands to ever come out of this state. It’ll be hard, I don’t doubt that. But maybe you’ll be able to hear the beauty in their brutality.
Converge is playing The Sinclair in Cambridge with Torche, Kvelertek and Whips/Chains on November 12th. Tickets can be found here. You can find more about Converge, including a stream of the new album, over at their website.