Speaking in broad strokes, it’s often hard to take metallic hardcore seriously. Blame Ferret Records, blame Solid State, blame Avenged Sevenfold. No matter who you point the finger at, the reality is that the term “metalcore” conjures a mental image of some seriously goofy, hair-straightened crab-walkers with overblown stage moves and hair-metal aesthetics.
Salem, Massachusetts masters Converge, on the other hand, have used the cross-section of fist-pumping hardcore and devilish metal riffing to transcend the slums. Over the past 22 years, and particularly since releasing 2001’s masterpiece Jane Doe, they’ve taken an artful approach to aggression without losing any of the venom.
All We Love We Leave Behind, the band’s eighth studio album, is easily their strongest statement since Doe. From the post-punk leaning snarl of “Aimless Arrow” to the punishing, vaguely poppy dirge of “Coral Blue,” their sound is all over the place, but not without its standard ear-piercing sludge attack. There are even flavours of Southern rock in the intro of “Sadness Comes Home” before Kurt Ballou rips into another shredding guitar solo. Dude’s fret game is at its best, with much of All We Love coming across like the world’s most exhausting guitar lesson. Though everyone’s at the top of their game, Ballou’s the star here, and further proof that they did the right thing in firing Bane goof Aaron Dalbec when they did.
While many of their imitators use crunchy guitars as an excuse to fill their Big Cartel site with a million br00tal screenprint designs, Converge have carved their own lane. Using metallic hardcore as a canvas, the band have released their strongest, most challenging work of art in years.