CONVERGE: Axe to Fall: CD/LP

I’ve heard a number of people say that each Converge album is better than the last and after being around for almost twenty years and releasing eight albums (including Axe to Fall), that’s saying a lot. It can’t be denied that almost every Converge release has been good—great in fact. Axe to Fall definitely carries on that tradition, but I don’t know if I can say it’s better than their last release, No Heroes. I’m not really interested in comparing this album against previous ones so much except to say that none of the first eleven tracks really came out and grabbed me like some songs on previous albums (“Fault and Fracture,” “No Heroes,” and “Hope Street”). What really got my attention were the last two songs: “Cruel Bloom” and “Wretched World.” I know there are a number of guest artists on Axe to Fall, but I didn’t know one of them was Tom Waits. Actually, that’s Steve Von Till from Neurosis, but he’s definitely been practicing his Waits impression, as the vocals on “Cruel Bloom” sound like they could have come from the gritty troubadour. As Converge has progressed, they have always had a few slower songs on each album, but the ones on here are by far the best they’ve ever done. Another part of their development can be seen with the heavier, faster songs that comprise the bulk of the album. The musicianship is by far the best it’s ever been, especially Kurt Ballou’s guitar playing (although he does have help from members of Cave In and Disfear on some of the tracks). It’s phenomenal. Bassist Nate Newton (also of Doomriders) is taking a bigger part in the vocals and it adds to the framework of the songs. Jake Bannon’s vocals aren’t constantly sounding like a dying bird and are showing more range on Axe to Fall than any album heretofore. My one complaint is that it seems that Newton’s bass is buried in the mix and—when it is audible—it sounds like a rumbling freight train as opposed to anything clean that might add even more muscle to Converge’s sound. While I can’t say this is the best album in their catalog, it’s still a fine piece of work and, on the whole, shows a great maturity on the part of the band without sacrificing any of their intensity. Axe to Fall is certainly worth the Converge fan’s listen.

 –kurt (Epitaph)