ConvergeAxe Will FallEpitaph Records
For me, Converge sits at the crux of why I love some music, and why some bands drives me up the fucking walls. They are loud and abrasive and technically superb. They cover every inch of sonic space possible in the sound waves available to the human ear. They are aggressive and pummeling and make you want to break shit. They also push the boundary between genius and unsustainable, sometimes not knowing when to pull you up from the water, giving you that breath of hope before submerging you once again into the hell they produce. Axe to Fall is nothing short of a metal masterpiece, but it doesn’t quite cross over, which is a shame. Having said that, this is a great fucking record.
To begin with, much like Russian Circles recent outing, Converge give nods to modern metal’s greatest band, Neurosis. But it’s not through waves of drumming, instead it’s through short bursts of beautiful riffs. The first four songs alone are Converge at the best they have ever been, and though the album sorta drags into Metal Noodling territory a bit, the intensity is kept up throughout. And speaking of Neurosis, Steve Von Till lends his excellent, weary, rusty voice to “Cruel Bloom,” a song that owes a nod to the great Pygmy Lush, a band guitarist Kurt Ballou has recorded and nurtured to great acclaim. The song gets help from Pygmy Lush’s Chris Taylor and sadly under utilizes Aimee Argote from Des_Ark. This is my only true complaint, because I hear it as duet between the two voices and the shit would be unstoppable.
Axe to Fall is a driving force of metal and post hardcore destruction. Converge shows their true colors as artists here, even if only in short bursts and flares, thundering a wall of noise at you. They may never really temper themselves, and you can’t really argue with that when they aggression has never sounded so good.
Sunny Day Real EstateDiary (reissue)
I need to clarify something out right here. I’m not a huge Sunny Day Real Estate fan. When I first heard this band back in the early nineties, this album specifically I found it annoying. And frankly after almost twenty years, it’s still not really doing as much for me. Though this band was instrumental in so many bands I dug that followed (Promise Ring and Braid especially) I think what they inspired was far more noteworthy then what Sunny Day Real Estate actually accomplished musically.
But I bought the reissue anyway. Why? Well it was a bit of an impulse buy, but it serves as a perfect comparison point to Axe to Fall which is the art of mastering. Despite Diary being remastered, it doesn’t sound updated at all. The initial sonic feel that Sunny Day Real Estate wanted to capture is preserved. This is how you re-master a record. It is not kowtowing to the current trend to boost all the levels of all the songs to indistinguishable wave patters. Sunny Day Real Estate were Pixies enthusiasts, much like label mates Nirvana, and utilized the loud.quiet.loud formula to great effect. Thankfully, it is preserved for a future generation of sad sack white boys to brood over.
So, Diary is not as bad as I recalled it. Frankly it’s no worse then it’s most blatant rip offs that soon followed throughout the nineties. But boy is the sound sourly dated. It’s was a reflection and reaction to so much that was going on in music at the time and so much that proceeded it, but the style didn’t really last and it doesn’t quite hold up. Still, I appreciate the effort. There was no other band like this (save for their predecessors Shudder to Think, which the liner notes give a nod to for good, deserved, measure) when Sunny Day Real Estate landed. And fuck if Jeremy Engick
isn’t a great singer, even strained and road worn, his voice resonates like very few before him.
I wasn’t really looking to relive the 90’s that much when I brushed pass this record. But Diary is a decent place holder to have in my collection, a reflection on what was, what became of it, and where things went to.