For most Bostonians of a certain age, Converge's Jane Doe (2001) is always going to be "that" record. But sentimentality aside, the metal/hardcore quartet's latest, All We Love We Leave Behind — out Tuesday on Epitaph — bangs right up against it. It's a record lacquered in pristine grime, a snuff film shot by Alexander Sokurov. The band stripped down to its core four members, a starkly different approach than on 2009's guest-star-laden Axe to Fall. For that organic sound, vocalist Jacob Bannon gives props to guitarist Kurt Ballou's masterful production. "There's really no way to fully capture that," Bannon says of the band's raw energy. "Ironically, it isn't just setting up a mic and playing, because you'll overdrive everything. It takes a lot of work to get an album to sound proper."
Opening track and first single "Aimless Arrow," a serviceable stab at modern post-hardcore, is the album's only stumbling block. It feels as though the band is trying to pull off a more aggressive Touché Amore or Self Defense Family. Although that mission is accomplished, the track betrays the greatness of the rest of the record. "Arrow" is followed by "Trespasses," a raucous grindcore cut that shows how uncompromising this record really is.
Eventually, All We Love We Leave Behind unfolds as one of the band's best records in years. The most vital Converge songs are so heavily saturated with hooks that time seems to slow down as you process everything, and this album has those hooks in spades. Take "Tender Abuse," which stitches old-school hardcore verses onto a blazing wall of black noise, downshifting into one of those classic Converge breakdowns (think 1998's "Conduit") that goes on forever. Total running time: 1:25.
"Glacial Pace" stretches its legs a bit more, but it too overflows with sounds. Opening with a wall of crystalline guitar — someone's been listening to Wolves in the Throne Room — the track moves onto meaty drumming that reminds these ears of Cobalt's Erik Wunder. The song's sinister angular verses crush — it's essentially Deathspell Omega's Paracletus with Bannon's vocals. "Vicious Muse" is another stomper punching well above its weight with some filthy gang vocals. But it's the slow rumble of "Coral Blue" where things really get interesting. It's definitely Converge's prettiest song, an immense, propulsive post-metal track.
Not enough can be said about bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller, the death march of "Empty on the Inside" being the most obvious example. The rhythm section also put their full weight behind the plaintive title track. "I think we pushed ourselves further than we ever have in the studio," says Bannon. "It became more about soul and performance rather than making sure everything was perfectly in time."
CONVERGE + TORCHE + KVELERTAK + WHIPS/CHAINS:: The Sinclair, 52 Church St, Cambridge :: November 12 @ 7 pm :: 18+ :: $16 :: 617.451.7700 or sinclaircambridge.com
: Music Features
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