Album Of The Week: Converge All We Love We Leave Behind
This week is a big one for new albums, especially if you like the sounds that electric guitars make when they’re turned up loud. I’m not as besotted with Tame Impala’s new Lonerism as a lot of people seem to be, but the album does a nice job turning ’70s bongwater-psych into a prettily fractal internal sort of thing; it sounded really nice while I was staring at rolling hills through a train window yesterday morning. Meanwhile, Ty Segall’s new Twins continues that dude’s ridiculous run, packing car-radio melodies and garage-rock wallop together with serious panache. Trash Talk have made a quasi-major label leap with their 119, finding a new depth and expansiveness in their pummel without making it any less intense. These are all worthy contenders, but my favorite album of the week is the one from the hardcore godfathers, two decades deep into a pioneering career, who have somehow found a way to remain as vital and ferocious as ever. At this point, I’m fairly certain that they’re vampires.
The last time we heard from Converge, they were spreading their wings and making, to my mind, the best album in a catalog full of great ones. 2009’s Axe To Fall had a few of the band’s trademark mathcore jackhammer-assaults, but it also had songs like “Cruel Bloom,” where the band slowed down into a Swans-style death-rock dirge, switching out the kamikaze grind for something monolithic but just as dark and heavy. That album also drafted in a small army of heavy-rock luminaries, each of whom were granted just enough room to add to the album’s all-out crush without ever altering the album’s basic DNA. You’d only hear those guest spots if you were listening for them, but they all helped to broaden and deepen the band’s sound. On All We Love We Leave Behind, though, broadness and depth aren’t really on the band’s mind. This is a self-consciously back-to-basics album, all feral growls and frantically seesawing time-signatures, its 14 songs rocketing by in a comparatively brisk 39 minutes. And while I’m a bit sorry see the band switching up its progression to gloom-core elder statesmen, they’re still better at forearm-smash blitzes than almost any other band working. And unlike the slower Axe To Fall songs, these ones can easily find a home in the band’s ridiculously intense live shows.
All that said, I can’t justifiably call All We Love We Leave Behind a step back; this is still a markedly different band from the one who made Jane Doe and You Fail Me. Those albums, the ones that confirmed the band’s rep as scene gods, always seemed like they were about to whirl into a million pieces. This time around, the songs are cleaner, more linear. They have actual grooves, even if those grooves move at cheetah pace. And even if they never return to their Axe To Fall churn, they still include tracks like “Coral Blue,” slower songs that give you a chance to breathe when you’re listening, and that open things up enough that you can hear the beauty of this machine in motion. In recent years, guitarist Kurt Ballou has become one of metal’s greatest producers, and his work here shows an equal capacity for grime and weight — for immediate basement-show feedback and crushing blunt-force guitar sludge. So the band has pulled off something exceedingly difficult here: A return to their older, rawer intensity that finds ways to pull us in, rather than alienate us.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Tame Impala’s inward psych-rock exploration Lonerism.
• Ty Segall’s excellently melodic LP Twins.
• Trash Talk’s furious but measured blast 119.
• MellowHype’s hard-hitting quease-rap album Numbers.
• New Pornographers leader A.C. Newman’s latest solo effort Shut Down The Streets.
• METZ’s driving, intense post-hardcore self-titled debut.
• PAWS’ rickety fuzz-rocker Cokefloat!
• Freelance Whales sophomore indie-popper Diluvia.
• Cold Showers’ dark, brooding Love And Regret.
• Kaki King’s largely instrumental guitar-based joint Burn.
• Chrome Canyon’s warped prog debut Elemental Themes.