Earlier this year, Inland Empire’s Xibalba released “Hasta la Muerte,” its first release on the new label, Southern Lord. The album was a ball-crushing mix of devastating guitars, aggro-as- hell vocals and thundering war drums. The album is easily one of the heaviest of all time in terms of pure musicality, and also easily one of my favorites. It seemed nothing could come close to “Hasta la Muerte’s” level of raw power. Not until now, anyways.
Converge’s latest release, “All We Love We Leave Behind” is so aggressive and unhindered, it’s unreasonable. Every space on the album is filled with sound, be it wonderful guitar work or brilliant drumming. Even the vocals, which usually aren’t exactly the focal point of hardcore, are great in this album. The range singer Jacob Bannon inhabits blends well with the rest of the music and acts as an anchor for the controlled chaos occurring behind it all. The vocals are a bit all over the place, but so is the music and that’s half of why it’s so great.
The album begins with a few straightforward tracks, but the genre hopping happens faster than you think. “Aimless Arrow” really shows off the technical drumming of Ben Koller and sets the relentless tone for the rest of the album. This leads directly into “Trespasses,” which starts with four open hi-hats, then slams you in the face with the double assault of double-bass and chugging guitar. Before any respite is given, the kick-snare punk beat starts and you’re moshing. Hell, there’s even a guitar solo. “Tender Abuse” starts with staccato guitar and drum hits then launches into a black metal blast beat. The song then allows for a bit of a break when it slows toward the end.
Other standout tracks include “Vicious Muse,” which starts out like an old-school ‘90s hardcore two-step, then quickly picks up with some interesting rhythm changes. The beginning of “Veins and Veils” almost sounds like surf-rock (which is ironically not even out of place) before it turns into a way for Koller to once again show off on drums.
Toward the end of the album, there are a few slower tracks to give the listener a chance to breathe. It’s worth noting the title track, “All We Love We Leave Behind” sounds pretty much like a Touché Amoré song. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s definitely a change. Some purist hardcore fans aren’t really into Touchés’ more emotional approach to the genre. The final track, “Predatory Glow,” is pretty brutal though, so it will definitely keep those critics happy.
The real standout track is “Sadness Comes Home.” The tracks starts out doommetal- esuqe and then the shredding starts. It’s sort of odd to hear this level of tapping and squealing in hardcore, but these guys are pretty far from traditional. Just when you think it can’t get any more gnarly, machine gun double bass assaults you, complete with a riff straight from an ‘80s thrash metal band. In short: It’s glorious.
Really though, even if you’re not a fan of hardcore or any other genre Converge blows through on this album, check it out anyways. I believe there’s a point when music transcends genre and just becomes damn good music and Converge’s “All We Love We Leave Behind” is the epitome of damn good music.