Converge - Axe to Fall
Epitaph Records
Thrashed Up Hardcore/Progressive Metal
14 songs (42:02)
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Thomas
Album of the month

A great man once said that progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything. Kurt Ballou has always stressed that he wants Converge to progress with each album by including more elements in their sound, song-writing and overall expression. From their debut that was Halo in a Haystack to the brilliant, hardcore landmark Jane Doe, and from there to the stunning No Heroes and now the unpredictable Axe to Fall, Converge have always progressed. As with every album of theirs, Ballou and Bannon have pushed and challenged themselves creatively and tried not to repeat themselves at all by also including a wide array of guest musicians creating more or less a collaboration album. This is still Converge mind you, with all the aggression, power, darkness, rawness and the madness we’ve been experiencing with them through seven releases. However, Axe to Fall isn’t all about being as loud and violent as possible seeing as how the guys have chosen a path that easily can be associated with progressive metal along the lines of Neurosis among others. Interestingly enough, there is also many a factor here that indicates that they wanted to make this a tad more accessible.

For those of you who didn’t get scared away by my last sentence in the previous paragraph, this is anything even remotely close to a sell-out album. Dark Horse will rip every remaining doubt away and bash you hard for doing so. The intro snare-drum/bass duel is soon accompanied by completely raving mad guitars and Bannon’s ever so intense and terrifying shrieks that has become one of the band‘s trademark. Wrapped in a metallic package with harmonies that resembles Iron Maiden and speed that is reminiscent of Slayer in their prime Converge take aim and fire straight at your head. Reap What You Sow doesn’t let up the beating yet adds to the theory that this is audibly catchier than anything they’ve released earlier. The lead guitars performed by ex-Hatebreed Sean Martin caught me completely off guard, and though it was strange and even a little unsettling at first it definitely finds it’s place here, and adds a nice little something for those who found No Heroes a little too bland. After the short yet insanely powerful one-two-punch that consists of the title-track and Effigy, the dark, almost doomy Worms Will Feed/Rats Will Feast slows things down for a bit while still being crushingly heavy and full of anger kind of like how Hell to Pay was eight long years ago. The metal influences on Axe to Fall are maybe more distinct than they’ve ever been, except for the shredding guitar-solos that you’ll find on some tracks here, there is also the pure thrasher Cutter and bits and pieces spread all over that flirts heavily with hardcore punk’s bigger and meaner brother. Also contributing greatly in dragging this into another dimension is Ben Koller, whose wild and sometimes bewildering drumming will bring absolute chaos upon you. His technique is fantastic, and as hard as might be to believe, he follows both Ballou and Nate Newton with ease, creates dazzling hooks with a mind that is beyond creative and set on rhythmical perfection. There isn’t one single hole that he isn’t filling with mind-boggling moves and completely twisted turns.

For those who felt that No Heroes was a little shaky and unstable in terms of quality, will find Axe to Fall to be consistently, in lack of a better term, awesome. There is nothing here that indicates an immediate loss of attention nor anything that comes of as boring. Flying kicks to the stomach and massacring of ear-drums is as common as soup in the homeless shelter on Christmas day, and though this may be easier to digest, it doesn’t mean that it’s less violent or dangerous than before. Splattering and nasty, Converge has created what may be a, if not the, highlight of the year for many metal and/or hardcore fans. The last breathtaking ride that is delivered in the shape of four punishing blows from Losing Battle, Dead Beat, Cutter and Slave Driver will blow your mind and stun you with a hammer of rage, before the two post-apocalyptic and most atmospheric Converge-songs to date brings total pitch black darkness upon you. Cruel Bloom which features Neurosis‘ very own Steve von Till on lead vocals, will lull you into a uncomfortable trance, and the beautiful yet mournful 7-minute closer Wretched World leaves you wanting more as it drags you into a emotion-filled void of emptiness.

Whenever Converge unleashes new work, it has to be experienced, absorbed and digested. It’s not always easy, but seeing as how this is more accessible yet still genius, this may be the best place to start with these guys. This is certainly Converge‘s best effort in a while, and dare I say the best since 2001’s Jane Doe? This band can do no wrong it seems, and where No Heroes failed only ever so slightly in terms of consistency, this will not leave you bored. Whether you blast this loudly in the living-room or sit down in your room with headphones on and with the booklet on your lap, I assure you that it’ll leave a mark. Fantastic work and a strong contender to album of the year for me.

Killing Songs :
Dark Horse, Reap What You Sow, Axe to Fall, Effigy, Losing Battle, Dead Beat, Cutter, Slave Driver, Cruel Bloom and Wretched World
Thomas quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Converge that we have reviewed:
Converge - You Fail Me reviewed by Milan and quoted 85 / 100
Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind reviewed by Koeppe and quoted 93 / 100
Converge - No Heroes reviewed by James and quoted 94 / 100
Converge - Jane Doe reviewed by Thomas and quoted 94 / 100
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