October 6, 2012

Album Review: Converge's All We Love We Leave Behind

Converge has seen a lot of comings and goings in their scene over two decades worth of material, and regardless of hardcore's evolution, they've stayed at the forefront as a dependable constant in leading its game-changing charge. Listening back on their 23-year-old catalog, there isn't a single weak spot, whether it be sticking the scene with an adrenaline shot on Jane Doe, dignifying metalcore in a catabolic form on No Heroes and Axe to Fall or violently sludging through foreign territories on You Fail Me. Regardless of how they've managed to re-shape their sound, fast, angry and dark themes are the obvious common denominators in all of Converge's shades of black, which goes to show you that the creative formula which makes them the envy of all their peers isn't exactly all too complicated. All We Love We Leave Behind is the 8th full-length effort to arrive from the Baystate thrashers, and in an era when hardcore's next generation of bands like Touché Amoré, Trash Talk, Birds In Row and Loma Prieta are emulating Converge's path to longevity, the veteran quartet's latest puzzle piece in the blue print lets them know that sometimes an album's strength isn't so much in what's "new" or "different" about its sound, but rather how flawless it is in execution.

Frontman Jacob Bannon recently told Pitchfork, "We want to be aware and self sufficient, but that comes from ensuring that things are done correctly for our band." Converge has put absolute faith in that statement here by recording All We Love We Leave Behind in guitarist Kurt Ballou's Salem-based Godcity studio with Ballou taking on production duties. In the past, the band has invited friends and like-minded peers inside their sessions, and while those guest spots have reaped remarkably different sonic facets for Converge's sound, recording this album entirely on their own provides a stark, naked representation of what Converge has become in the year 2012. The comparisons to Jane Doe have been drawn up in analyses elsewhere of the LP, but the clarity approach gives All We Love We Leave Behind a certain sense of matured and slicked over cohesion that wasn't yet learned in their 2001 classic without losing any of the unhinged, raw driving power. That's to be absolved in tracks like "Aimless Arrow," "Vicious Muse" and "Shame In the Way" where the balance between Bannon's carry over the manic see-sawing of Ballou's guitar riffs and bassist Nate Newton is equalized by Ben Koller's ability to drum up the mends between the damaging fault lines. Space between the four members results in an exhale of menacing anthemry in "Sadness Comes Home," "A Glacial Pace," "Coral Blue" and the LP's title track, all which hit the album's themes of personal loss and the passing of time the heaviest despite the burrowing breakdowns they flail into. There's absolutely no rest for anyone with a weakened heart amid these nihilistic crawls, as the physical chaos packed into the album's shorter tracks ("Trespasses," "Tender Abuse," "Sparrow's Fall") provide enough evidence to silence naysayers who might suspect Converge has lost a bit of their grip on showing no mercy.

Holding All We Love We Leave Behind against any of Converge's other phenomenal albums results in this one taking home the superlative of being their strongest LP of their career. What's most damningly great about their latest release is that the brawny substance behind these tracks isn't due to a concept or focusing on a certain side of their sound, but instead embracing each member's strengths and ability to bring out the best in what they've collectively refined in each others' presence for at least 13 of the 23 years as a band. It's maybe most peculiar that All We Love We Leave Behind album art features the cycles of a lunar eclipse, which Jacob Bannon says represents how "time is always fleeting," since this listen transcends that notion as a timeless anomaly of a hardcore classic.

Converge's All We Love We Leave Behind will be released October 9, 2012 on Deathwish Inc. / Epitaph Records.

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