By Ben Apatoff
UPDATE: You can now stream the entire disc on the band's MySpace page.
(Also, don't miss our epic live footage of a full set from CONVERGE we posted a few months ago, including 2 songs from this album! Click here to watch all 11 clips.)
Is it too soon to mention CONVERGE in the same breath as SLAYER and MOTORHEAD? The Boston foursome have perfected a formula which they've seldom deviated from over the years, but they're consistently fierce and exciting enough to make every album worthwhile. Their latest, Axe to Fall, continues Converge's habit of outperforming any metalcore band in listening distance, only this time they've thrown in more stylistic curveballs and mathier riffs than ever before. The payoff is 42 exhilarating minutes that fly by like an EP, plus a connecting force between MINOR THREAT and GREG-era DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. Not to mention possibly the best album of Converge's career.
The phrase Axe to Fall works as both the album title and a warning of its contents: "Open only with a parental guardian present to pick the remains of your skull off the ground upon hearing this." The last thing you remember before blacking out could be drummer BEN KOLLER's fills giving way to the physics-defying riff of "Dark Horse" or the siren wail of KURT BALLOU's lead melody on "Effigy," but if you're lucky you'll make it at least to vertigo-inducing slide of "Losing Battle" or the tommy gun riff intro to "Cutter." JACOB BANNON's bark is one of the most expressive dins in metal today, and he'd be convincingly emotive even if Koller and eye-of-the-hurricane bassist NATE NEWTON didn't sound like they were hunting him down. Ballou is a different foe entirely–imagine having to come up with vocal lines to go with the instrumental versions of "Dead Beat" or "Reap What You Sow."
Axe to Fall is not specifically punk or metal, although it's head, shoulders and knees above most punk and metal bands. Plus, the two closing tracks indicate that there's a wealth of potential for Converge in a full album of dirges and murder ballads. Not so fast, though–Converge may sound like they could make a killer MARK LANEGAN record, but as Axe to Fall proves, they're far too important in metal for anyone to think about shifting gears. Best album of Converge's career? Maybe the best of 2009.
4.5 lumberjack accidents out of 5