Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Epitaph Records
Technical Hardcore
14 songs (38:32)
Release year: 2012
Reviewed by Koeppe
Album of the year

Three years later, following their 2009 hit Axe to Fall, Converge might have created their most accessible albums to date. For a band as jarring as Converge, this is an adjective that gets thrown around a lot with the hope of drawing in listeners. As a fan, Axe to Fall didn’t do much for me. It didn’t sound like the Converge that I had grown to love, with Thomas’ review labeling it as “thrashed up” and to me, it just sounded like Matt Pike had joined the band at time. It was too clean, too widdly when what I want from Converge is dissonant and emotional intensity. With Ballou’s claim to have tried to make an “organic” sounding album that “captures the way the band performs live", this album is a definite shift in production from their last and it works really well for the total sound. What I think will allure fans that never enjoyed past efforts is how everything in this album is distinguishable to the ear, that is, it never devolves into cacophony for better or worse. They’ve maintained that precision from Axe to Fall while incorporating it more fully into the band’s earlier aesthetic.

Opening, blistering track Aimless Arrow, at first, struck me as unimpressive outside of the context of the album. It was a cool video, but nothing I hadn’t heard before with Ballou’s classic metallic twangy riffs and Bannon’s frantic vox; it wasn’t until placed within the context of the entire album did it begin working on me. It transitions so smoothly into the track that follows it, providing an effortless one-two punch. Trespasses is most defined by the presence of the drums as Koller establishes a pummeling pace behind the drumkit. Sounding more like a bombardment than the traditional skank beats of hardcore, the blasts work well in combination with the deep guttural growls of the track’s title during the concluding breakdown. Not enough can be said about Koller’s timeliness at filling in moments perfectly with the simplest of beats, while also being able to instantly transition into a rhythm that drives the entire song. This album has more than its fair share of classic hardcore tracks, Tender Abuse and Sparrow’s Fall, for instance, that are over before you know it, but only after having boxed your ears in. Even the track, Vicious Muse, begins with a classic hardcore drumbeat and gang chants, yet once the guitar comes into play then the song takes on a whole new tone that reminds me more of Red Fang on meth than something more comparable to Converge, like Botch or Coalesce. The song rocks, being one of the catchiest Converge in my book that I can almost imagine dancing to as much as moshing. How Converge is able to incorporate styles, the process of bending and manipulating sounds in order to make them succumb to their agenda, makes this album so good.

Not in years, if ever, has a Converge album been a straightforward affair with each song conforming to a particular formula as is so often seen in hardcore. The band is never satisfied with not pushing the envelope and what this album truly does well is incorporating the particularities of each of the band members’ tastes as each as grown into their own particular style. Tracks, Sadness Comes Home and Empty on the Inside have a definite vibe of Doomriders with the slow rock sound adapted to hardcore, but maintaining a similar structure and feel to Newton’s side-project. However, the most profound shift follows Veins and Veils with the beginning of Coral Blue. The track almost provides a sort of intermission between the first half and the conclusion of the album. The slow-paced build might make one think of Nate Newton’s other band Old Man Gloom, but that opening riff sounds more like Ulcerate than anything else. The whispered vocals give way to awesomely emotional shouts and before long the rhythm develops an oppressive weight before dissipating in feedback with the drums kicking up for the next track. Shame in the Way maintains a steady beatdown tempo before entering into a gallop’s pace. The album’s title track showcases just how great these guys really are. Bannon no longer has to rely on barking as he can rely on a strained, anguished shout that transitions well into shouts of the title. The band is able to perform flawlessly the balance between frenetic riffing and low bass chords to build up anticipation. The album closer, Predatory Glow moves along at a doom crawl, with cymbal crashes that you can’t help but bang your head to, before an insidious riff kicks in that closes the album out with Bannon’s classic distorted snarls over top of it.

The diversity of the songs on this album eases you through to the end. This isn’t like past efforts of theirs that leave you drained or even anxious with energy. Instead, what the album provides is a buildup of tension and ultimately catharsis. No lengthy stretch of tracks violates one’s ears insofar as the album spreads out the violence interlaced with spaces of atmosphere and beauty. The album holds the listener’s hand and offers breathing room when necessary with tracks like A Glacial Pace and Coral Blue. I foresee some critics calling the album bloated perhaps, but before that criticism can take hold, any appearance of superfluousness works towards the album as a whole, setting a smooth tempo and drawing the listener in. As I said before, I truly think this is an accessible Converge album, that is not the piece of art that Jane Doe is yet represents what the band as artists are able to do. If you haven’t taken the time to allow Converge to court you in the past, this might be a worthwhile moment to let them do so.

Killing Songs :
Sadness Comes Home, All We Love We Leave Behind, Coral Blue, Trespasses, Vicious Muse, Predatory Glow
Koeppe quoted 93 / 100
Milan quoted 87 / 100
Other albums by Converge that we have reviewed:
Converge - You Fail Me reviewed by Milan and quoted 85 / 100
Converge - Axe to Fall reviewed by Thomas and quoted 91 / 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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