Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (2012)
Well fuck me with my own severed dick, Converge has done it. They are 22 years into being a band and they’ve made what might be their very best album ever.
I said it. While this doesn’t have the advantage of the massive formative impact on my music taste in my first years of liking metal that my personal fave “When Forever Comes Crashing” had (holy shit, go ahead and read that part again if you have to), I don’t think anyone would have too big a problem calling “All We Love” the definitive statement of their evolved sound. Most people will probably still cling to “Jane Doe” for the same reasons that I cling to “When Forever”, but there’s no denying that this is at the top tier in the band’s output in terms of consistency and gut impact.
(Disclaimer: I am a faggot poser bitch and do not own “Axe to Fall” and am therefore largely unfamiliar with it. So there’s your grain of salt to take with my best-ever blathering.)
It’s all here: every aspect of the band’s sound that they’ve been perfecting since “Doe” is represented in it clearest, purest, catchiest, and most devastating form. Kurt Ballou will steal sear your soul with his screaming, desperate guitars and gnarly but clear production, Nate Newton will still crush you with his sledgehammer bass, Ben Koller will still constantly blindside you with frantic, creative drumming, and Jacob Bannon will still push the experience over the edge with his tortured screams and beguilingly beautiful album artwork.
We’re dealing with a latter-day Converge album here, so it’s only natural to expect some insane thrash-punk ragers. And oh god on this album DO THEY RAGE. I have to hold onto my throat during “Trespasses” because I feel this overwhelming need to protect my jugular. “Sadness Comes Home” begins with a suffocating doom intro and then just erupts into an unbridled, maddeningly catchy little tapping lick that drives the rest of the song until Bannon screams the title one last time and the doom riff crashes back in and forces you to the floor with the weight of its emotion.
Converge has always had a passionate, bleeding-heart-on-sleeve sound, but this album would make the Thing blubber like Chris Crocker. And I know exactly during which song that would occur, more on that in a second. Even though the sharp, jagged shards of intense heavy hardcore on this record will completely sever your optic nerves somehow and would earn this album easily an 8 on its own, the greatness of the album lies in a few intensely beautiful and emotional centerpieces. The lead-off track “Aimless Arrow” recalls another stellar past album-opener “Last Light” with its urgent but weeping guitar work and that weird, heart-rending yell Bannon breaks out every once in a while in songs like this. It’s an instant classic song for the band, and on my first listen of the album, when the vicious “Trespasses” completed the opening one-two punch, I was already sitting up straight, wide-eyed and alert, thinking to myself “holy fuck, they’ve finally just DONE IT”.
“Coral Blue” instantly stood out to me as well, its slow-churn verses blasting wide open with a shake-the-very-skies choral texture in the chorus. The intimate clean guitar solo (and I mean “solo”) is also a brilliant touch.
But it’s the title track “All We Love We Leave Behind” that leaves the deepest scar, easily. There are exactly three things in the universe that can literally make tears come out of my face: the verses of Mastodon’s “Crack the Skye” after the guitar solo, the end of “Forrest Gump”, and the song “All We Love We Leave Behind” by Converge. While such utterly heart-ripping lines as “Nothing in this world/Could ever compare/To the hole in my heart/And the weight in the air/When you took to the sky/And I lost you to time/A final goodbye/All we love we leave behind” won’t win any Pull-It-Sirs (say it out loud…THERE you go) for uniqueness of imagery or wording, when they’re howled bare-throated by Bannon and backed by Kurt Ballou’s writhing, wrenching riff (not to discredit the epic buildup at the beginning of the song, and the intro track “Precipice”)…well this sentence is already long enough. You’d have to be made out of some material even harder and stonier than my dick when I watch Tim Tebow documentaries not to shed a tear or four thousand.
The two secret strengths that make the album more than a collection of unbelievable songs are its consistency and its tracklisting. It’s a perfectly constructed album made up of perfectly constructed songs. Though I won’t mention every song because they’re all cut from the same mold of excellence, there are other moments of greatness, such as the sheet-of-nails chorus of “Vicious Muse”, the unsettling slither in the bridge of “Shame in the Way”, and the end of “Glacial Pace” where the wait for release finally and massively pays off. Only “Veins and Veils” would I consider an oh-so-slightly weaker song than the rest, but it’s still really good, and placed in the middle of the album as it is, it’s at a perfect spot to provide a breath before another plunge. And the sequence of the tracks themselves is such a fragile and perfect thing, making the album truly an easy roller coaster to ride again and again.
This review isn’t that long or comprehensive (unlike my cock, that thing is comprehensive as HELL even though it’s still not very long), but then again this album isn’t that long either even if it is THE comprehensive Converge document. So far it’s second only to Meshuggah’s mighty “Koloss” in the race for Best Heavy Album of 2012. If you listen to this record, prepare to not be able to pay attention to any petty distractions you usually indulge in during music, and be blissfully flattened by the power this seasoned and mature band wields.
9/10: Sobbing helplessly while moshing to this is perfectly understandable.
Listen to: “All We Love We Leave Behind”