Formed in the winter of 1990 in Boston, MA, during the rise and subsequent fall of the legendary Boston hardcore scene, Converge are unarguably one of the most important bands in the history of aggressive music. Through numerous line-up changes (the band are currently comprised of vocalist/visual design terrorist Jacob Bannon, drummer Ben Koller, guitarist/back-up vocalist Kurt Ballou and bassist/back-up vocalist Nate Newton), musical trends (mosh, tech, guys crying and wearing make-up, 80s thrash revival) and the coming and going of more the next great thing than I care to recall, Converge have established themselves as leaders in the aggressive music underground.
It seems redundant to use the word landmark when discussing their musical canon, as almost every album is genre-defining, but Converges run is unparalleled. Releases such as ‘Petitioning the Empty Sky’ (1997), ‘When Forever Comes Crashing’ (1998), ‘Jane Doe’ (2001), ‘You Fail Me’ (2004) and ‘No Heroes’ (2006) have established Converge as trendsetters and innovators, setting new standards in hardcore and metal with each release. These records have evolved the band (from their thrash-inspired, hardcore-drenched beginnings to slower, more ominous and atmospheric work to all-out Tsunami-of-hostility hell-bent on levelling creation) and produced new waves of followers and emulators with each successive work. Honestly, has there been a band more influential on past and present successful metal/hardcore acts as unaccredited? Its true: integrity has its price.
After nearly 20 years, such a glorious run of releases and a live show thats gone from flailing kids flailing against kids to legendary exorcism for both band and audience watch the pit during The Saddest Day and tell me its not the closest thing to a near-religious experience atheists will ever have Converge could be forgiven for releasing an endeavour that was simply good, okay, just maintaining their status quo. After all, its much easier to win the title than retain it, and even the greats slip from time to time. ‘Axe To Fall’ (Converges third release for indie institution Epitaph Records), however, is no such relapse.
True to themselves and their art, as always, no matter the cost, ‘Axe To Fall’ continues to push relentlessly forward, much like a shark that needs to always keep swimming to survive. Where ‘No Heroes’ was a refinement and broadening of hostilities declared on previous assaults such as ‘Jane Doe’, ‘Axe To Fall’ returns to the more AmRep-inspired noisecore abrasions of ‘You Fail Me’ while also updating and making vital the thrash influences that defined earlier Converge efforts (‘Caring and Killing’, ‘Petitioning the Empty Sky’) and retaining the hardcore hostilities and frantic pace so vital to their foundation. Of course, the experimental anguish and pleading for salvation are no mere sharpening of past knives but yet another leap forward in an existence full of them.