Sharp as Hell
In Pitchfork’s 8.5-rated review of Converge’s Axe to Fall, Cosmo Lee compares the Boston quartet to pretty much the biggest punk band of our time, Black Flag. He even likens singer Jacob Bannan’s imagery on the covers of Jane Doe and You Fail Me to Black Flag’s bars. So whether they’re intentionally going for it, Converge have done well in achieving influence, acclaim, and success in the hardcore metal market. There’s a reason this album is their most commercially successful effort to date: it bowls people over with their talent.
What seems to be clear is that an artistically impressive hardcore metal record must have more than just balls-to-the-wall thrashers. Converge certainly deliver those in the first four tracks with “Dark Horse,” “Reap What You Sow,” the title track and “Effigy.” But then you get “Worms Will Feed,” an ambient and disturbing slow build with a reverb-heavy feedback intro that you’re just expecting to explode. And it does, with Bannan’s howl, Kurt Ballou’s needling guitar and Ben Koller’s patient drumming. “Worms” ushers in a lovely slower-paced portion of the record with “Losing Battle” picking the pace back up with a blistering, punishing drum part at its core.
Bannan, Ballou, Koller and bassist Nate Newton invited a host of musicians to guest throughout the record. Members of Cave In provide guitar and drums on “Effigy,” Steve Von Till of Neurosis offers lead vocals on “Cruel Bloom,” and Genghis Tron show up for “Wretched World,” the record’s exquisite closer. These are Converge’s contemporaries but this is not a “guests” record, so to speak. In fact, with this collection of songs they’ve shot to the top of the class. Few bands achieve their level of artistry in the metal field, but perhaps sharing the genre’s spotlight with Isis, Mastadon, Dillinger Escape Plan and Deftones would be appropriate.
It’s rare to find a hardcore metal record that induces headbanging and moshing the way that, say, “Dark Horse” would, and also includes a first-rate stoner voyage on “Wretched World.” Axe to Fall is an impressive record with diversity, good pacing, tempo varieties and passionate playing.