The truth about bands "wearing their hearts on their sleeves" is this at day's end, it's much bloodier, gruesome work than the saying suggests.
Few bands blow apart this clichι better than Salem, Mass.'s Converge. Formed in 1990, the quartet has since spent eight studio albums laying their souls totally bare. Unlike their competition, however, they've done so without hyperbole. At day's end, Converge is unafraid of mapping the human experience's every centimeter. Dark or light, all emotions get their due.
All We Love We Leave Behind continues this tradition with the same fearless honesty of its predecessors. It's a schizophrenic thrill ride see-sawing between soaring highs and crushing lows. Much like life itself, it's messy and unpredictable. As a record, it works only because every moment is delivered with the same raw vulnerability.
Make no mistake, there's no easy subject matter here. Nowhere is this more present than "Coral Blue," the album's undisputed center. Brooding and stark, it finds frontman Jacob Bannon reflecting on how adversity separates weakness from strength:
"Swam out to sea / to try and be me / to drown those that thought / they could never sink," Bannon gasps. "When in the deep / weakness is easy to read / coral blue grows in you / coral blue tells the truth."
It's an island of clarity amid the record's more turbulent seas. Gradually morphing from sinister psychedelia to pulverizing finale, it also drives home the disc's central theme. All We Love We Leave Behind is about facing the world's deepest cuts, then emerging scarred but unconquered.
Every song before and after "Coral Blue" explores the hardships such struggle takes. "Aimless Arrow," for example, opens the CD with frantic melodies stampeding in panic. The resulting chaos fits the lyrical disorientation perfectly.
"Trespasses," meanwhile, is a relentless barn-burner whose energy bleeds itself dry. "We burn We burn at both ends" Bannon howls over desperate, wailing notes. In much the same vein, "Sadness Comes Home" toes the line between depression and mania. At times careening by, at others it slows into a grueling crawl.
"Empty on the Inside," another standout, describes just that existence in blatant, brutal terms. It starts with amp abuse so vicious it's probably outlawed, then locks into militant drumming and tumultuous bass notes.
All this doesn't mean All We Love We Leave Behind is hopeless. Rather, it breaks listeners down and builds them back up. "A Glacial Pace," for starters, journeys through hazy guitar chords like a lost traveler before finding its way. "Let our love guide us through the torrents ahead" Bannon shouts over churning riffs. After this, the title track offers catharsis via exuberant drum rhythms and fist-pumping melodies. In each instance, listeners emerge from battle with hard-earned optimism.
Such peaks and valleys find Converge illustrating the infinite reserves of personal strength. Every song here shows that even at rock bottom, listeners can still look up. Driving that point home is the thunderous stomp of closer "Predatory Glow." Grinding and massive, it steamrolls even the most resilient eardrums. Thankfully, the lesson it delivers is a vital one:
"Let the future know / I won't be there tomorrow," Bannon roars. "Let the past know / I gave them my all." Every second screams "seize the day," and All We Love We Leave Behind is a gripping, powerful place to start.
Sadness Comes Home
Empty on the Inside
A Glacial Pace
Veins and Veils
Shame in the Way
All We Love We Leave Behind
Check 'em out at www.facebook.com/converge
Mark Hensch is the editor of Thrashpit. You can also read more of Mark's work in Heavy Metal Hensch at the Washington Times Communities. When not writing for the Communities, Mark writes about mixed martial arts for MMADiehards.com.