Converge's eighth studio album is packed with guest performances by kindred spirits from Massachusetts and beyond. "Effigy," one of four songs on the album that comes in under the two-minute mark, features Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath of Cave In on guitar and that group's drummer, J.R. Conners, behind the kit. Uffe Cederlund of Disfear takes over lead guitar on "Wishing Well," while Steve Von Till of Neurosis sings on "Cruel Bloom" and Genghis Tron' Mookie Singerman does guest vocals on the seven-minute album closer, "Wretched World." But it's the core group that delivers the most astonishing displays of hardcore fury and progressive musical exploration on Axe to Fall.
By the time any ordinary band is fortunate enough to make it to its 20th year, chances are that they’ve settled into a nice, comfortable little groove, their longevity made possible by giving the fans exactly what they want, rarely if ever deviating from the musical path they’ve created. And that’s fine; there are plenty of bands out there who continue to reliably churn out the kind of music whose strength is more its familiarity than its groundbreaking qualities. On the other hand, there’s Converge, a band for whom the word “complacency” is not in their vocabulary.
Converge are this generation's Black Flag. This generation might not remember Black Flag, so here's a refresher. In the early 1980s, Black Flag and peers like Bad Brains and Minor Threat took punk beyond "three chords and the truth." The result was hardcore punk. It was deliberately ugly and harsh; Clash-fetishizing critics have mostly ignored it.
Seven albums across 15 years is a robust set of career stats for a hardcore band; moreover the word ‘career’ can be used legitimately in reference to Massachusetts quartet Converge. How did this berserker whirlwind of techmetalthrashcore assimilation get so popular? Without being overly cynical, it can be partly attributed to their marketing, image and aesthetic – right down to the album art by frontman Jacob Bannon, which is along the same crypto-gothic paint-splatter lines as their last three LPs (and whose style you can probably find a lame imitation of on a sweater in a discount sports shop near you). They’ve never knowingly compromised their sound for a growing audience, though, and it’s hard not to admire them for blazing a trail of sorts.
Possibly the most raved-about hardcore band of this decade, Converge seemingly can do no wrong when it comes to their throat-searing metal/punk hybrid. Critics and fans love reminding us how "important" the Boston band is to aggressive music, not just for pushing the envelope but shredding it with every album. [rssbreak] On Axe To Fall, their seventh, it's easy to understand why.
Converge is that band that we want to call our generation’s great hardcore success story. In many ways they are. They are still going strong after 20 years and I still don’t have a band to compare them to, although I can count many who have tried to be like them. As unpredictable as when they started, Converge released Axe To Fall on October 20.