Despite having recorded some of the most brutal and technical records ever to have graced Hardcore (and beyond), Converge will almost certainly be forever judged through the prism of 2001s outstanding 'Jane Doe' album. It was a game changer, not just for the band but musically too and its influence still being felt today. Topping an album like 'Jane Doe' is not impossible, but Converge has never really set about trying to better past glories, preferring to keep moving and striving to break new ground whilst retaining what made them so special to begin with.
Where 2009s 'Axe To Fall' found the band utilising an army of mates to help out, 'All We Love We Leave Behind' leaves behind their assistance; indeed it strips everything right back to the fundamentals. According to guitarist Kurt Ballou there is "no artificial distortion, triggers or auto tune" on the album.
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Hearing such sentiments instantly recalls a time when bands were keen to distance themselves from the use of keyboards and sampling. This move towards a more organic, back to basics sound does not appear to be motivated by an irrational hatred of synths and studio trickery (Ballou himself is a master of the studio arts), but instead seems to be a move to capture the band at their rawest, most natural and most aggressive.
This move towards an almost live sound shifts the album deep into Hardcore territory, and as such, it feels like the band are in a small, sweaty venue and bellowing in your face for the best part of 35 minutes. Of course, Converge also happen to be one of the most incredibly tight and technically proficient bands on the planet, so these are not just straight-ahead three chord screamathons, 'All We Love...' is a dizzying, complex and invigorating maze of ideas.
'Aimless Arrow' opens things up and instantly sets about wrong footing everyone. In amongst the spiralling riffing and scattering drumbeats, is vocalist Jacob Bannon who appears to be almost singing rather than screaming and barking in his usual style. Normal service is quickly resumed however, and by the time the frantic punk fury of 'Trespasses' kicks in, Bannon is back to his usual growling self.
The song itself comes on like a supercharged Minor Threat, reaching terminal velocity in an instant and never letting up. 'Tender Abuse' continues the charge at breakneck speed, and then switches pace for a grinding ending which allows the rolling doom intro of 'Sadness Comes Home' to come as less of a shock.
It's not too long before the frantic pace returns and the technical riffing takes over. There are clear lines to be drawn between 'Sadness' and Mastodon's fevered 'Southern Fried' style (in particular the insanity of 'Capillarian Crest') although whether either band influenced the other is open to debate.
'Sparrow's Fall' bezerk jazzcore/hardcore hybrid is a relentless pummelling scattered liberally with scant motifs that is nothing short of breathless, but it is perhaps 'Coral Blue' that stands out amongst the blitzkrieg as it takes the doomier flavours hinted at on 'Sadness Comes Home' and commits fully to the idea.
Essentially a dark and brooding ballad with nods towards 'Isis' (circa 'Oceanic'), this is Converge at their most accessible and almost bordering on pop nuance. Almost. Also breaking away from the Hardcore intensity is 'Precipice', a brief instrumental, which borrows a little from Classical, Industrial and Goth and winds up sounding elegant and emotive.
The title track showcases once more Converge's perfect amalgam of pace, guitar gymnastics, incredible drumming and Bannon's increasingly versatile vocals, proving that Coverge have left little that actually matters behind.
Closing with 'Predatory Glow's' repetitive, churning riffing, Converge hammer the final few nails in with something approaching grandiose pomp. The lines "Let the future know, I won't be there tomorrow" and "I'm aching for an end" seem to suggest that time is short, but taking the album as a whole, and the vitality that Converge clearly still have any worries about the longevity of the band should be assuaged.
This is an album from a band in rude health.