While Converge are quickly approaching their proverbial elder statesmen status for the united metal and hardcore factions; the effects of aging, the tribulations of the music industry and the forced responsibilities life throws upon those in their late 20's/early 30's have yet to dampen their inferno of wrath and near psychotic intensity. Instead, with "Axe To Fall" the band have expanded not only their musical arsenal, but their intent to deliver as many casualties with it as well.
The ferociousness that tears through this album from nearly start to finish is uncanny and leaves a mental whirlwind of viscera and dismembered appendages in its wake. But to merely annihilate the senses is not exactly new ground for Converge. Where "Axe To Fall" begins to shine is in its progressive underpinnings. Speed and psychosis tend to mask the inert prog complexity present in a number of the snarling riffs and ever-volatile rhythm section; but those who listen closely will note that the band have beefed up their repetoire with stamina and intelligence, rather than simply bulking it up with some tuning changes and deeper tones.
But while Converge easily deliver some of their most biting and devastating tracks to date on their own, a large component of "Axe To Fall" comes from the littany of their peers involved with it. Members of Neurosis, Cave In, Genghis Tron, The Red Chord and a handful more all contribute heavily to the release, embedding themselves into the actual songs, rather than merely contributing a guest spot.
Converge's willingness to welcome this many guests into their craft, while still retaining their own immediate identity, stands as a testament to not only their open mindedness, but just how definable their terrorizing onslaught of metallic noise has become over the years. Most bands this far down the line would probably just let the new talent grab the reigns, while they sat back and cashed the check, not so with Converge.
Instead the group readily follow their enlisted compatriots into the fray, alternating between supporting and leading roles when the need arises. Case in point, the etheral delicate strains of "Cruel Bloom", a dirgeful track that heavily favors Neurosis' Steve Von Till and what appears to be female vocals. Not only does the haunting ballad organically taper off the albums momentum, but it sounds like something Tom Waits would pen on a layover in purgatory while making his descent to hell.
The Genghis Tron-led album closer "Wretched World" similarily spirits off into a darkened world of jagged riffs, worn vocals and poignant, electronically layered ambiance. Sure these down tempo moments of relatively clean singing and melody aren't entirely new ground (let's not forget Jonah Jenkins on "Grim Heart / Black Rose".) But they are certainly bolder steps than the band have taken before.
Truly, with "Axe To Fall" the band have proudly delivered another cornerstone album in their already impressive discography. A ravenous sonic envelopment that defines all their best traits, while trailblazing for future avenues yet to be fully explored.
(5 / 5)