I was three years old when Jacob Bannon and company first formed Converge.
23 years after the band’s inception, trying to write about the Founding Fathers of hardcore punk is like trying to tell grandpa about the war.
All We Love We Leave Behind, the band’s 2012 release and eighth overall, is a testament to the band’s history, and cements their legacy as the most iconic group of the genre in the last quarter century.
The album made it to number 7 on my best of 2012 list, and I wrote then that it was an exhausting album at 17 tracks, even though it spans just 38 minutes.
The deluxe version of AWLWLB (ironically the version most-readily available for purchase, so there’s no reason not to get it) features 14 tracks and 3 songs from the post-Axe to Fall EPs and singles that have been re-recorded (“No Light Escapes” from the Napalm Death split, “On My Shield,” and “Runaway” from the Dropdead split).
According to lead vocalist Jacob Bannon, all of the album is “organic,” and features no triggers (which is to say, one bass drum kick artificially produces a second kick in quick succession via a triggering system; kind of like auto-firing a camera’s exposures) or auto-tuning of any kind. It’s this true DIY spirit that has preserved the integrity of the band’s character over the years.
Converge have never fallen in line with trends. They’ve never set out to write albums in the name of being contrarians. They’re just a blue-collar band: they tour for 60-70% of the year in every city imaginable and produce quality, memorable albums on a 2-3 year cycle that define the state of the genre every single time. Period. What more could you ask from a band?
All We Love sees the group at the top of their musicality game: creative and sheering guitar work from the incomparable Kurt Ballou, sludgy and lightning-quick bass from Nate Newton, and “How have his legs not fallen off?” drumming from Ben Koller.
Thematically, All We Love finds Bannon at a place of tremendous sadness because of a topic that will hit home with a lot of folks (even those who think this brand of music is just noise): the death of a pet. The title track mourns the loss of one of his dogs. Kanye West boasting the 2nd verse of “New Slaves” as the greatest verse in rap history (OF ALL TIME!) it is not, and that’s what makes Bannon’s lyrics enjoyable, even when they’re steeped in a sorrow that’s difficult to shake: they’re down to earth.
Even when he’s writing about living the so-called “punk” lifestyle, and thus leaving behind a certain stable brand of life, it isn’t even specifically about being punk – it could be any lifestyle, about any person. Being able to something easy to identify with by a broad spectrum of people takes incredible tact and precision, something I don’t think a lot of people understand. In this case, the words just happen to be yelled.
P.s., hope you like the sound of feedback.
From last year’s All We Love We Leave Behind, here is the re-recorded version of “Runaway” –
Standout tracks: “Sadness Comes Home,” “No Light Escapes” and “Runaway”
Weakest track: “Precipice” since it’s more of an interlude/overture to the title track than anything else.
RIYL: Hardcore punk, the roots of a genre. Botch, Dillinger, Code Orange Kids.