Over the past 22 years, Converge has deftly succeeded in coalescing the worlds of aural violence and art. When you consider the extracurricular activities of Converge’s lineup, between Jacob Bannon’s Deathwish record label, the infinite number of hyped albums cut at guitarist/producer/engineer Kurt Ballou’s GodCity Studio, and the side-projects bassist Nate Newton and drummer Band Koller participate in, it’s hard to deny the troupe’s role as an essential tastemaker for the hardcore community. With the release of All We Love We Leave Behind, Converge has once again displayed its uncanny ability to create an album as skull-cleaving as it is beautiful.
The 14-track maelstrom sees the Salem, MA, based band exploring a more metallic space, a la Jane Doe and the A-side of 2009′s Axe to Fall. However, while the album revels a bit in the groups obvious love of thrash-metal, it is covered in Converge’s aesthetic. “Trespasses”, for example, may be the most blatantly metal track Converge has released in recent memory, but the unique musical personalities the members bring to the affair force what might have been a stock-sounding double-bass drum and tremolo-picked romp of a track into a realm of overwhelming intensity, rife with the Ballou’s hallmark shouts of feedback, Koller’s break-neck drumming, Newton’s fuzz-riddled bass, and Bannon’s unsettling barks and yells.
Tracks like “Sadness Comes Home”(featuring an Angus Young meets Entombed main riff and a whammy-barred solo) demonstrate Ballou’s newfound comfort in playing somewhat more conventional sounding heavy metal guitar. The guitarist, known for a love of home-brewed tunings and an incredibly strong grasp of off-kilter dissonance, has previously hinted at his guitar-shred prowess, but generally opted for textural or spastic moments when stepping out. “Vicious Muse” is another surprise that utilizes a tambourine in the drum pattern and straight-forward punk rhythms as a foundation for the otherwise dark sounds of the track.
Despite the hints at conventional metal and punk stylings, All We Love We Leave Behind retains all of the intangible sorrow that sets Converge apart from the pack. The colors used are lush, the playing ornate, but the content is still based in so, so much anger and sadness. There are the grandiose moments of Albini-informed noise and atmospherics (“A Glacial Pace”, “Precipice”) providing dynamic exaggeration, a slow waltz to the end of the world via “Coral Blue”, but overall, this record provides the that full-on assault fans might have missed on Axe to Fall. At any rate, All We Love We Leave Behind stands tall within Converge’s discography as yet another glowing example of how to make art out of aggression.
Essential Tracks: “Aimless Arrow”, “Tender Abuse”, “Coral Blue”, and “All We Love We Leave Behind”