11:08 AM CDT, October 15, 2012
3.5 stars (out of 4)
Most bands run out of gas after a few years. A few make it a decade with their artistry and integrity intact. But Converge is something else. Though it’s virtually unknown outside hardcore and art-metal circles, the Massachusetts-based quartet has been remarkably consistent over a career that spans more than 20 years.
Like the seven studio albums that preceded it, “All We Love We Leave Behind” (Epitaph) occupies the unruly intersection of metal, punk and progressive music, weeding out the weaknesses the band perceives in each genre and saving the good stuff for its rigorously constructed songs.
With guitarist Kurt Ballou’s engineering, the quartet is captured with seething clarity. For all the musicians’ virtuosity – the almost superhuman drumming of Ben Koller, lead bass of Nate Newton, electro-shock of Ballou’s guitar – this is not a band that indulges jamming or stretching out. Solos arrive in short, furious bursts that ornament the forward momentum. The compressed, concise intensity turns “Vicious Muse,” “Veins and Veils” and “Sadness Comes Home” into harrowing thrill rides, with vocalist Jacob Bannon singing as though he’s fleeing a lynch mob.
Just as critical, however, is the band’s ability to pull back and let things breathe. “Coral Blue” comes off as a dreamy surf-music offshoot, Bannon’s voice ebbing and surging atop the guitars. Desperation takes hold on the title song, which, among other things, distills the price paid for life decisions. It implies that for this band, the music supersedes all distractions.