All We Love We Leave Behind is Converge’s 8th studio record and first since 2009’s superlative Axe to Fall. Shorn of that album’s guestlist Converge have, according to singer Jacob Bannon, “really stepped up our game on this record” and that’s the truth. Their trademark splenetic and spidery hardcore song-writing persists with complex riffs, hyperactive drumming, booming basslines and Bannon’s throat shredding vocals; there’s still fire coursing through their veins but it’s tempered by down-tempo, reflective moods and twisted rock scenery creating a coherent, mature record.
The Massachusetts progressive hardcore four piece have evolved consistently over time but unlike say Radiohead, they haven’t ditched their roots – they’ve diversified without diminishing. Songs like opening one-two Aimless Arrow and Trepasses show they can still blast out a spiky song to compete with the best of them but Bannon’s lyrics recounting the heartache of a life dedicated to music are stark: “to live you the life you want and abandon the ones you need…the ones who love you, the ones who need you more” are what can be “sacrificed in order to survive”. Further songs like Tender Abuse, the twisting turning rage of Sadness Comes Home and the hammer blow of Empty On The Inside leave no doubt about the real pain those sacrifices can inflict. As Bannon explains himself, “Every song is rooted in real life, documenting what I have experienced over the past few years.”
Whilst those songs are firmly rooted in the Converge canon there are a number of left turns on and within tracks on All We Love We Leave Behind. Empty On The Inside collapses and reforms itself halfway through before the mid-album point when Glacial Pace abandons the frantic pace for a song of dynamic contrasts: snaking, almost psyche guitar trading space with a number of crunchy riffs with Bannon roaring the song home. The big departure is the mellifluous yet stygian Coral Blue a mid-paced rock song with its words and Kurt Ballou’s chugging guitar dripping with dread and a big hooky chorus: “Coral Blue grows in you. Coral Blue tells the truth”. A chorus that begat a spaghetti western meets surf tremolo guitar breakdown and squealing outro demonstrating the band’s varied repertoire. Precipice features a similar taste for new tones with it’s thin metallic beginnings building via clanking percussion into the title track’s menacing bassline, circular drum beat and broken refrain “you deserved so much more/Than I could provide/Thank you for loving me and bringing light to my eyes/ All we love we leave behind.”
Time moves on and people and tastes change too but so do Converge – they haven’t rested on their laurels and soaked up the accolades but have developed. Their spasmodic attack, coloured by tempo switches, classic rock textures and melancholic lyrics and their belief in taking chances make All We Love We Leave Behind one of the albums of the year regardless of genre. Converge in 2012; still fiercely intense and inventive but also considered and positively plaintive.