Today is a killer day for music.
I mean, every day is a good day for music, but especially this one.
I’ve just arrived home from the strangest festival I’ve ever attended: the first ever Funshine Musical Fest here in Tampa. Last night, Smashing Pumpkins, Train and Cheap Trick headlined. Tonight, Ted Nugent, Styx and REO Speedwagon. Tomorrow is some country artists I don’t know, The Wallflowers and… Tonic.
I was there today to see Kevin Devine & The God Damn Band, followed by Bad Books. As I was leaving the BB set, an AC/DC cover band started on the next closest stage.
Posted out front of the grounds was this list of rules:
I know. And then whatever the hell this thing is…
Clearly, Florida has some things to learn about music festivals. Perhaps this is the exact reason we don’t host a Bonnaroo- or Coachella-esque event.
Both bands put on fantastic sets, even if it was the strangest redneck festival at the redneck fairgrounds here in Tampa, complete with a zoo and carney food (and tucked away in the back, food trucks – we are doing it all wrong, Internet).
Later tonight, I’m going to see my friend’s band New Cathedral open for Polyenso, another band I’m pretty high on right now. They used to be known as Oceana, and were an average hardcore band. Now, under the new name, they have a much more polished and refined sound, at times sounding like Radiohead. Needless, they’ve come a long way.
And in between those two events, I’m listening to today’s album: Converge’s chaotic and frenzied Axe to Fall from 2009.
The 7th studio album from these hardcore icons, it is my opinion that Axe is the band’s most accessible record yet. For a listener interested in diving into their catalogue, I’d recommend starting with this or No Heroes.
At 13 tracks and over 40 minutes long, Axe to Fall is plenty enough to satisfy anyone looking for a rude awakening. Most of the album pelts with relentless force, at times a high speed train wreck of guitar work and drummer Ben Koller’s pummeling assault.
“Dark Horse,” “Reap What You Sow” and “Axe to Fall” tear out of the block, and may very well be the tightest 3-song set in their entire discography. The only other set I can think of that works as well together is from No Heroes, but I’ll leave that thought for when the album comes up later this year.
These first three songs together remind me a lot of the combo of “Concubine” and “Fault and Fracture” from Jane Doe – just an avalanche from the get go. Lead vocalist Jacob Bannon adds his brand of shearing, barely (and at times, not at all) decipherable screaming. Simply put: it’s layers upon layers of insanity.
I’m happy to also say that Axe steps away from this madness a couple of times – which mostly works in its favor, but does account for the album’s one misstep.
The most notable of these deviations are “Cruel Bloom,” which has vocals backed by Steve Von Till, a singer and guitarist from the metal band Neurosis, and “Worms Will Feed / Rats Will Feast” with vocals that sound like Nate Newton (the Converge guitarist, not the former offensive lineman in the NFL).
Both tracks are meddling slow-burns, benefiting from a tempo that is altogether unlike the rest of the record. Till’s vocals on “Cruel Bloom” give the song a very Sopranos-like feel. Not in a cheesy wannabe-gangster way; rather, cinematic impending doom. May be the best song on the album if it weren’t for the first three rippers.
For me, Axe falters only on “Damages” which is disjointed to the point of not being able to make up its mind. Is that a xylophone I hear? Or a triangle? That’s not the legendary band I know. Put that away.
Converge is one of the heaviest bands out there right now, with an even better message of “Be you and fuck what everyone else has to say.”
Also, spay and neuter your pets.
From Axe to Fall, this is the explosive, sub-two minute title track –
Standout tracks: “Cruel Bloom” and “Wretched World” and “Losing Battle”
Weakest track: “Damages”
RIYL: Chaos. Heavy metal, metalcore. Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch.