Axe To Fall
19 October 2009
by Mike Strata
There is a massive temptation to greet every new release from Massachusetts’ favourite sons with a foam-at-the-mouth kind of hysteria usually reserved for teen idols. The devotion inspired by Converge is built on the rock-solid foundation of an almost flawless back catalogue, and so the band find themselves in the rather unenviable position of being expected to deliver a classic album every single time.
Fortunately for them, everything they touch seems to turn to gold, and from the moment you hear Ben Koller’s galloping drum intro joined by Kurt Ballou’s twisting, serpentine guitar riff on album opener ‘Dark Horse’, you know this is no exception.
Ballou is undoubtedly one of the most imaginative guitarists in heavy music today, and it’s his rocket-fuelled fretwork that propels this whole album. Obviously having attended the same school of hard rocks as ex-Botch/current Minus The Bear shredder Dave Knudsen, the riffs on display on Axe To Fall are monstrous but nimble, chaotic but beautiful. Never have Converge sounded so brutal and yet so (whisper it)…..catchy. The first four songs flash by in what seems like seconds in an incredible opening salvo. Is it punk? Is it metal? Is it hardcore? Who gives a fuck when it sounds this good?
The aforementioned ‘Dark Horse’ and the album’s title track having been previewed in the months leading up to release, the most interesting of the quartet from a fan’s point of view is ‘Effigy’, which sees members of Cave In join the fray – vocalist Stephen Brodsky even straps on his trusty six string to contribute a sizzling (yet all too brief) solo! We may have been waiting ten years or so for the oft-mooted “Verge-In” project, but if ‘Effigy’ is a taste of what we’re in for, the wait will have been more than worth it.
Elsewhere the band expand upon tried and tested formulas of old; ‘Worms Will Feed’ sounds like it could have been taken from any of the last three Converge records (believe me, that’s a compliment), with its combination of a spooky, lurching riff and Jacob Bannon’s trademark “just gargled with hydrochloric acid and glass” screams. Expansion is actually the name of the game here, we all know that Converge can crush skulls with the best of them, but Axe To Fall‘s biggest surprises (and perhaps biggest successes) come when they dare to try something new. Nowhere is this willingness to experiment more obvious than on the album’s 2 final tracks. ‘Cruel Bloom’ (featuring Neurosis’ Steve Von Til) is utterly magnificent – it sounds like the ghost of Johnny Cash joined by a spectral choir before exploding into a ferocious doomy dirge. Following this is ‘Wretched World’, a sprawling, synth-drenched epic with Genghis Tron‘s Mookie Singerman providing a haunting vocal performance. It’s like nothing the band have ever done before, and it is quite exquisite.
Watch the video to ‘Axe To Fall’ by Converge
Axe To Fall is everything you want it to be and more. Album of the month? Most definitely. Album of the year? Quite possibly. Masters of all they survey, the only thing Converge have to worry about now is how the hell they go about topping this.
Sounds like: Converge, Cave In, Neurosis
Top Tracks: Dark Horse, Effigy, Cruel Bloom, Wretched World
Converge – Axe To Fall tracklisting
Reap What You Sow
Axe to Fall
Worms Will Feed/Rats Will Feast