Converge coined an explosive lingo of metalcore through a series of
Halo in a Haystack (1994),
Petitioning the Empty Sky (Ferret, 1996 - Equal Vision, 1997), that
includes their early signature song The Saddest Day,
Caring and Killing (1997),
the catastrophic When Forever Comes Crashing (1998),
and Deeper the Wound (2001), a split with Hellchild.
This phase peaked
on the bleak concept album Jane Doe (2001), on which
guitarist Kurt Ballou led a furious albeit surgical assault on the senses.
The brief manifesto Concubine erupts distorted and colliding riffs
while vocalist Jacob Bannon
vomits hysterically and the drums radiate blastbeats. This intensity is
matched later by the 42-second heart attack of Phoenix In Flames.
The rest of the album does not reach that peak of savagery but basically
offers variations on that theme, such as
the frantic melodrama Fault And Fracture
Homewrecker, with its galopping rhythm and anthemic howling.
Complex songs undergo delirious mutations, such as when the
angular guitars and irregular tempos of Distance And Meaning
(reminiscent of prog-rock) lead to visceral screaming and headbanging,
or when the limping AC/DC-esque Thaw ends in a massive wall of noise.
Heaven In Her Arms is Jacob Bannon's best show (mainly parrot-like squeaking).
There are hints of real melodies in the agonizing, derelict eleven-minute
psychodrama of Jane Doe.
A lot less intense and slightly more melodic,
You Fail Me (Epitaph, 2004) marked a surprising retreat into darker and
calmer atmospheres, although
it still contained feverish music.
The songs were generally more convoluted, with instrumental parts that
rivaled those of prog-rock except for being compressed in fast bullets.
The result was more melodrama than fury (Last Light,
In Her Blood
and especially You Fail Me).
terrifying vehemence and acrobatic tempo shifts of Black Cloud
The unstable but close to anthemic Drop Out and tribal but almost
pathetic Hanging Moon were emblematic of the
instrumental maturity of the group.
Distant echoes of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC emerged in Death King.
The album even boasts a surreal acoustic vignette, the six-minute In Her Shadow.
Continuing to push the emotional envelope,
cacophony ended up replacing viscerality on No Heroes (2006), a
display of elegantly arranged metalcore, including their idea of a power-ballad,
the nine-minute Grim Heart/ Black Rose.
The album opens with four very brief songs of increasing violence, notably
Sacrifice. That is not matched again until the very last song,
To The Lions.
Otherwise the construction of the songs was quite a bit less creative
(No Heroes, Lonewolves, Trophy Scars),
hinting perhaps at yet another stylistic transformation.
The notable exception was Plagues, "undermined" by its
instrumental overture and deranged dynamics.
Each of the three albums that preceded
Axe To Fall (Epitaph, 2009) had tweaked their metalcore aesthetics,
starting with pure fury but then moving on to
atmosphere and finally to elegance. The fourth in the metalcore series
simply displayed the tremendous asset of the quartet:
vocalist Jacob Bannon, guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton, and drummer Ben Koller constituted one of the most cohesive and articulate units in the rock
The album also marked a return to the classic style of
Jane Doe thanks to perfect bullet-songs such as
the galvanizing merry-go-round of Dark Horse,
the frantic and pulverizing Reap What You Sow,
the epileptic Effigy,
the even more hysterical Cutter,
and the galopping hoedown of Wishing Well.
Only four songs extend beyong the three-minute mark:
the tortured blues-metal Worms Will Feed Rats Will Feast,
the even more wavering Damages,
Nick Cave-ian lied
and the seven-minute power-ballad Wretched World, that subverts all
their dogmas (even a synthesizer).
All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph, 2012) was even better, thanks
to versatile singing, agile guitars, saturated basslines and dynamic drumming.
The unlikely balance of these elements shines in the
rugged unstable agonizing mathcore of Aimless Arrow (in which the
drumming becomes almost conversational).
It rescues from oblivion the slower songs, like the
power-ballad Coral Blue (with a ridiculous choral refrain to the 1980s of Bon Jovi),
Glacial Pace (mainly a showcase piece for
Jacob Bannon's tortured vocals) and
All We Love We Leave Behind, which attains some sort of melodic flavor
while the singer is shouting out of his wits.
The highlights, however, are to be found in more cohesive pieces. First come
the brief ones:
the hyperkinetic black-metal fury of Trespasses bordering on acrobatic rock'n'roll, and the hysterical one-minute eruptions of Tender Abuse and Sparrow's Fall.
The shorter songs are also the ones that are more likely to experiment with
oddball incursions into other genres, like
the drumbeat of Vicious Muse, that
sounds like a tribute to vintage Ramones
(but the guitarwork is avant-death), and the
martial war-beat and whisper in the middle of the otherwise emphatic Empty on the Inside.
The most memorable moment comes in
Sadness Comes Home, that hesitates between slow doom-sludge riffs and a demented square dance, basically wedding Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
The pathos that has accumulated throughout the album erupts in the macabre
funereal march of Predatory Glow:
"Let the future know/ I won't be there tomorrow/ Let the past know/ I gave them my all/ I'm aching for an end".
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