Those who know of the music of Converge know that each record delivers nothing less than a bracing tempest of musical ruin, a polyrhythmic banquet for the ears and a dizzying display of uproar to piss off the neighbours.
All We Love We Leave Behind continues this grand tradition, finding the Salem-based quartet thrashing out the meat of their influences with contemporary flair and inborn skill. One of the very best heavy records of the year, the castigation contained in these 38 minutes may well become the stuff of legend.
Converge has been developing new ways to take on hardcore punk music since 1990. Jacob Bannon (vocals) and Kurt Ballou (guitar, vocals) may not have known that what they were shaping in those early days of Slayer covers would become a critical darling, but the impression their pointed and inspired approach to thrash and heavy metal has made is indisputable.
In 1999, Converge added bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller. Despite line-up changes and departures over the years, the nucleus has remained the constant and distilled their form into a study of rhythms, methodical riffing, space management, and pure devastation.
All We Love We Leave Behind, perhaps more than any other release since Jane Doe, sets Converge in terms of sheer lovers of music as form. This all-killer release swerves with gruelling and curving guitars as much as it makes with rapid grooves and tempo swings.
“Aimless Arrow” introduces snaking, flying guitars to produce a ragged base. Koller’s drumming comes from an angle, tacking cymbals at ostensibly inappropriate times but never treading outside of signature. The disquieting fills shade the remote delineations of the song, while the vocals form more of the metric centre.
It is this twisting of song construction that makes Converge such a unique act. The approach bowls through other numbers and orthodox thrash beatdowns are also to be found. “Trespass” and “Sparrow’s Fall” are frenzied examples of such throat-shredding anguish.
But then there are tracks like “Sadness Comes Home,” a riff-happy piece that wouldn’t be uncommon on a stoner rock record. It still has the Converge touch, but it settles into a groove so mean and nasty that Queens of the Stone Age might be taking notes. After setting up the desert-kissed sun, the band flashes through with zigzagging phrasing and cataclysmic drumming.
“Leave Behind” is another specimen of unstable undercurrents. Commencing its vigilant violation with ponderous notes, Koller shows up with dense presence and lays the groundwork. More eddying riffs take hold and it seems Converge is building something stadium-size: a near-anthem.
A striking epic of annihilation and investigation, Converge’s All We Love We Leave Behind is an extraordinary recording from a band doing no less than refashioning hardcore music. They would probably only cop to playing their asses off and paying tribute to the music they grew up with, but maybe that’s the best course to reinvention after all.