Say what you will about the state of heavy music today. Say its convoluted, contrived and awash with identikit bands doing the same or praise the diversity and enjoy some absorbing times to be enjoying the most visceral music on earth. Regardless of your feelings, one thing that can certainly be said for it is that there are few bands offering up a real, genuine and absorbing experience with each record. With Converge, that has certainly never been a problem, and with the release of their seventh album, Axe To Fall, they continue to stand out like never before as a band who have never strayed from a musically brutal path, but continue to produce an asborbing, expanding cacophony of noise.
Axe To Fall also has the distinct honour of perhaps being the most accessible Converge album yet. Good lord, don’t think they’re slacking off or have watered themselves down, because it’s probably the most savage they’ve ever sounded. It’s just with a slightly cleaner guitar tone, a host of guests providing diverse clean vocals, solos and a continuation of the measured experimentation heard on all of their recent records, Converge have managed to make a brutal, emotive yet somewhat reflective experience.
One thing that’ll certainly hit you first is the album’s heaviness; the opening salvo of Dark Horse, Reap What You Sow and the title track provide some of the fastest, most brutal hardcore punk songs of the band’s career. Chaotic, visceral and impressively tight, it’s a thrilling start, make no mistake. But head the opposite end of the album, you’ll find Cruel Bloom and Wretched World. Both are slow, brooding numbers featuring sombre vocals that stray a long way from what you’d consider your average Converge song. They’re all the better for it, too. This, for the most part, is the album’s blueprint; more chaotic, yet better structured chaos punctuated by occassional moments of experimental respite. It makes for a great mix, and whilst it doesn’t always work (Worms Will Feed is a sludgefest that never really goes anywhere), it’s a record that definitely gets better on repeat listens.
It’s worth mentioning the guest musicians that appeared on Axe To Fall (members of Cave In, Neurosis and Genghis Tron all contributed), but after spinning the album for the first time, aside from the vocals on Cruel Bloom, the provided solos and vocals fit in so well with Converge’s established din created that they’re barely noticeable. With this, Axe To Fall represents another impressive chapter in Converge’s history. It might not quite hit the visceral highs of their classic, Jane Doe, but it certainly comes close, and that should be enough to convince anyone of its pedigree. Besides, Converge could probably write a good record in their sleep and it’d still rip your face off. Outstanding stuff.