When it comes to technical, brooding metal played at blitzkrieg speed, Converge is at the very top of the game. If you're discussing the fusion between technical metal and hardcore, or if you're talking to any of today's "metalcore" bands about who they consider to be most influential, chances are that Converge's name will be dropped more than just a few times. So it should come as no surprise that the follow-up to 2001's highly influential and genre defining Jane Doe was one of the most anticipated heavy records of the year. And after all the wait, does You Fail Me deliver? You bet your ass it does. Even though the band experiments more with slower tempos than they did in the past, Converge still remain as fierce and as brutal as ever with their Epitaph debut. The major difference however, is that they focus more on song structure than ever before, giving each song a separate identity rather than going into a chaotic frenzy.
You Fail Me starts out with a gloomy and atmospheric 1 minute intro - you hear a guitar in the background, and check the volume because you know things are going to get loud any moment. And things do get loud right away with "Last Light," but not in the way you might be expecting. This is a different kind of song for Converge, with a fairly simple guitar and not the Jake Bannon voice we've come to know. We can actually...understand him. One thing we do recognize, however, is Ben Koller's signature complex drum beats. Tracks 3-6 are for the band's loyal followers, and are some of the best work the band has penned to date. "Black Cloud" is one of the stronger tracks, done in classic Converge fashion, perfect for some serious moshing madness. The same formula continues with the pulverizing "Drop Out," which shows Kurt Ballou's absolute command of his six-string guitar. The short but punishing "Hope Street" and the chaotic "Heartless" will supplant a firm kick in the ass to any cynic that might have thought the band had gone soft on them.
It is then that the album changes gears with the 5 and a half minute title track opus and the 6-plus minute "In Her Shadow." With a combined total of 12 minutes, these two songs make up about a third of the record's length, with the band slowing things down considerably. The title track especially goes on for way too long, with the same guitar riff repeating itself over and over again, and after a while, you really want to press that skip button. But I think part of the point is to make you feel uncomfortable, judging by the song's lyrics. "In Her Shadow" is highly unorthodox for a Converge album, not only featuring acoustic guitar, but also a piano and some very haunting vocals by Jake. As soon as its over, however, the band gets right back to business with "Eagles Become Vultures," and holy shit, listen to that drum intro. This man is a machine. Similarly, the final songs of the record are written with pit action in mind.
Lyrically, this has to be a concept album. It's difficult to follow the lyrics along because they are all meshed together without the titles or any punctuation in one big block, but by going through the words you can tell that there's an overarching theme of disgust and disappointment going on here, seemingly with one particular person. Lastly, it is safe to say that this is Converge's most listenable records, but by Converge's standards, that terms is to be applied loosely. Converge has always upped the ante for metal and hardcore music, and You Fail Me is no exception. In a year that has been plagued with more than a few weak heavy releases, you can count on Converge to continue to raise the bar and showing yet again why they're one of the most influential bands in metal today.