A lot of critics & fans seem to feel “Axe To Fall” is Converge’s best album since the behemoth that was Jane Doe – to be perfectly honest, I’d go beyond that and say it’s my personal favourite release of theirs to date.
The production values and sound of the album are truly superb. Guitarist Kurt Ballou resumed his role as producer for this record, and has put things together wonderfully well. With a band like Converge, where there’s SO much going on in every song it’d be easy, daresay understandable, for vocals, instruments etc to get lost or confused amidst the craziness – there’s absolutely none of that. The technicalities of the songs are clearly there for all to hear, and they’ve found a great marriage between a relatively clean, crisp overall sound where everything has it’s rightful place, without compromising any of the distortion of the guitars, the intensity of the drums or the power of the vocals… although you still can’t make out Jacob Bannon’s lyrics – but that’s nothing new, and really doesn’t matter. There’s never a moment in any of the songs where the music sounds hollow or empty.
The first four songs are simply stunning. Brutal, brutal fast thrash/hardcore, unlike anything you’re likely to hear elsewhere. Some of the guitars and drums genuinely left me dumbstruck the first time I listened to them in my car, and of course the schizophrenic time and style changes are there too, but they ALL work and just add to the overall menace & intensity of the songs.
With such a strong start, the album inevitably lulls slightly, but that’s only because the first few tunes are SO good. The rest of the recording’s still definitely Converge on very, very good form, and working with some great guest musicians to mix things up a bit. The last track –a predominantly ambient, haunting little number called “Wretched World”, is a good illustration of the multitude of musical styles & songwriting the band are capable of, and the sort of song that (probably) only Converge could get away with in the strange world of ‘hardcore’.
Of course, an album’s more than just about the music for Converge, so naturally the accompanying CD sleeve & inlay feature more amazing artwork from Jacob Bannon, and the video for title track “Axe to Fall” is the best I’ve seen for a long, long time.
This album’s a wet dream for Converge fans, and even those who aren’t will surely appreciate the skills, time and talent that have gone into it. Fingers crossed they’ll be visiting the UK again soon…