What's really left to say about a band such as Converge? It's been at it for more than a decade, refining its noise-metal-hardcore blasts to bullet precision. Vocalist Jake Bannon's animalistic howls, harrowing lyrics and powerful album art helped to define not only the Converge sound, but the entire hardcore aesthetic. Yet the act remains steadfastly unique within its scene. While many bands might purport to sound like Converge, Converge sounds like no one. Equally powered by guitarist Kurt Ballou's corrosive chording and raw, atmospheric production, the group has carved its own niche as a legendary band in an overcrowded genre. And, honestly, did anyone really expect You Fail Me to be anything other than incredible?
Well, incredible might be understating it, as this album harnesses Converge's crusty chaos-core into a dozen razor-sharp shards from Bannon's broken, blood-and-tear-stained neuroses. With lyrics such as "You kill new hope with old pain," the Prozac this guy must've popped since the release of 2001's Jane Doe (Equal Vision) had to have been a bottle full of placebos. From the opening salvo of "Last Light" -- its drums blasting and stuttering like a worn-out machine gun in His Hero Is Gone-evoking glory -- to the album's eponymous centerpiece -- a glacier-slow hemorrhage of catharsis and despair -- this band means it. Even if it's labelmates now with glossed-up pop-punkers such as The Matches, You Fail Me is a bleak, emotionally devastating throat-punch that further deifies these Boston scene-makers.
Of course, it's not all wiry metal riffs, inhuman shrieks and off-kilter percussion (though tracks such as "Black Cloud" and "Eagles Become Vultures" make this equation work wonderfully). The first bars of "In Her Shadow" might pass for a Bright Eyes weep-fest, though it soon plummets into a plodding, chant-filled flood of wordless melancholy. The album's closer, "Hanging Moon," begins familiarly, with a crushing, head-swiveling drum fill, before devolving into something totally unexpected: a fuzzed-out Bannon hollering (relatively) cleanly, as the drums switch to -- what's this? -- a straight-ahead, 4:4 rock beat, while the guitars do a great, albeit super-heavy, Mission of Burma impression as triangles chime. Apparently, "weird" for Converge is, oddly, rather standard.
Still, You Fail Me packs plenty rusty, tormented blasts of emotional agony. "Drop Out" finds Ballou pulling off hideously beautiful lead riffs, as the band foams at the mouth and twitches behind him in a post-hardcore seizure. A laborious tempo and angular axe growls propel "In Her Blood," as Bannon borders on desperate misogyny: "You are nothing more than a dim lit whore ... you chase a shadow that will fade out."
From its chaotic art to its, um, chaotic songs, Converge's latest is a scarring, gorgeous soundtrack to the worst times of a broken man's life. Bannon said in an interview that, in writing Jane Doe, the depression he hoped would have lifted, in fact, did not. Here's hoping that this melancholy lifts from this gifted songwriter.
By Alex Frank