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. This is their seventh release and by far one of the most influential records to date. While Converge has never needed help making a record, this one has a lengthy VIP list. Some contributors include: Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath (Cave In), Uffe Cederlund (Disfear), Steve Von Till (Neurosis) and Mookie Singerman (Genghis Tron). It’s one of the first times we see a lot of individual effort put into one Converge record.
The first song, “Wretched World,” sweats of hostility and ambient absence making us wonder if we downloaded the wrong band. Once you make it to “Slave Driver,” it’s back to business as usual. Jake Bannon’s harsh yet understated vocals make their way into the hearts of those who have been with Converge since high school. There is no question that the record gets better as you get further into it with songs like “Worms Will Feed” and “Reap What You Sow.” The songs follow a familiar message as many of the past records. Converge songs have always been about struggle and overcoming the world that’s beat us down, which is a nice sentiment to continue with Axe To Fall.
The record as a whole leaves much to be desired, and for those who have listened for years: I don’t think we will ever have another Jane Doe. History does not always repeat itself and I don’t assume Converge will ever move backwards. However, I think Axe To Fall is a listen that takes just that: listening. It’s a struggle to avoid picking out its qualms and breakthrough to the best pieces but when done, it’s a good record.
Jake Bannon’s interview with Alternative Press magazine in 2005 sums up the change the band has undergone. He said, “by definition, real hardcore cannot become mainstream. It’s too harsh, too abrasive and too opinionated to be able to fit what is commercially palatable by today’s standards. Hardcore is reactionary.” He is right—it still is much too abrasive to fit into any Top 40 chart — but it’s not mainstream that has changed, it’s Converge that has driven closer to mainstream. This is evident on Axe To Fall more than another record. It worries me that cheesy metal riffs have made their way onto a Converge record, making it sound like it might be accepted on tour with Mastodon. It’s not a matter of breaking apart but experimentation that might not always go right. However, for Converge there’s always the next one.