Wow. This thing sure as hell kicked my ass. Converge, veterans in the hardcore scene for over 20 years now, are flourishing in their most experimental period yet. All We Love We Leave Behind showcases a seriously deadly and potent mix of sludge, post-hardcore and punk, and its a contender for album of 2012 for sure [yet some may still have missed it — Steel Druhm].
While I wasn’t exactly blown away by the album’s intro, “Aimless Arrow”, it’s still a solid opener. Energetically building up the rest of the 30 minute record with drum fills, guitar-wanking, vocalist Jacob Bannon howling – you name it. To me, All We Love We Leave Behind really kicks off with the second track, “Trespasses”. This is a seriously nasty piece of work. Without a moments notice, Converge completely bombards you with an absolute wall of noise. The guitars are in perfect harmony, chugging away rapidly to some absolutely relentless bass drumming, similar to that of a power-violence or grindcore track. The difference with the bands modern aesthetic is that instead of sounding tinny and flat, the songs sound thick, emphatic and huge. This song feels like being tied to train track, rendered completely deafened by the train driving over you. Seriously killer stuff.
Even “Precipice”, a minute and a half instrumental track, really stands out from the rest of the album because of how damn harrowing it is. It takes it’s time, plodding along with mechanical drumming and clean guitar licks, all played delicately with an eerie piano tune in the background. It’s a creepy little build-up to the title track. Color me impressed.
“Sadness Comes Home” and “Predatory Glow” are some of the sludgiest tracks I’ve ever heard from Converge. They both keep the same level of aggressiveness as the other songs, whilst being much slower affairs. If the riff-bass drum combination doesn’t kick your ass, the gang vocals sure as hell will. These are easily the heaviest tracks on All We Love We Leave Behind.
“Sparrow’s Fall” is one of the few examples of oddly poetic lyricism in this record, seemingly about being broken and defeated by the world around us. The key lyric in this song “don’t live as the echo, but thrive as the sound” is probably one of those little fortune cookie sentiments I’ll remember for a long time. There are other examples of this creative lyrics, but you’d have to pay close attention to the sheet in order to decipher what’s being growled at you in the song. Which brings me to my bone to pick with All We Love We Leave Behind : The vocals are absolutely smothered by everything else going on around it. Sure, lyrics are something I don’t usually pay attention to, but in one of the rare cases I do, it would be nice to actually hear them. Bannon sometimes recites in spoken word, which as you can expect, doesn’t translate all too well, especially in “A Glacial Place” or “Coral Blue”.
Obviously this isn’t the be-all and end-all, since the album more than makes up it’s lack of vocal clarity with it’s intensity and, really cleverly structured songs. I just don’t see the point in putting all that effort into such well thought out lyrics, when they’ll be completely swallowed by the rest of the song. It’s like trying to practice a speech in front of your family, while your mother is using the vacuum cleaner right next to you. It’ll fall on deaf ears.
Nit-picking aside, All We Love We Leave Behind is a blast. At 30 minutes and not over-staying its welcome, Converge prove once again why they’re one of the leaders in the hard-core scene. Plenty of experimenting, but with absolutely none of the intensity or energy sacrificed. Listen to this the way it deserves : Loud as balls.
Highlights include: “Trespasses”, “Veins And Veils”, “Coral Blue”, “Tender Abuse”, “Sadness Comes Home”
Written By: Potato Jim