It’s rare that the most well-known exponent of a style is also the best, and that’s why Converge stands out. This 22-year-old Salem, Massachusetts, metalcore quartet is in the benchmark business: Its new LP, All We Love We Leave Behind, arrives three years after the critical triumph Axe to Fall—and a little more than a decade after the subgenre landmark Jane Doe—but it packs a nostalgia-killing thrill. From opening breathtaker “Aimless Arrow” forward, vocalist Jacob Bannon, guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller operate here at peak strength.
Ballou is Converge’s unsecret weapon. He blasts through copious thrash-punk rave-ups, as on “Trespasses,” but he’s never far from one of his signature squiggly ornamentations—see: the verse of “Sadness Comes Home”—which only heighten the album’s sensation of white-knuckle mania. During an unaccompanied solo on the dirgelike “Coral Blue,” he explores a whole other texture: twanged-out ghost blues à la Marc Ribot. Respites like this make blatant fist-pumpers such as the title track seem all the more urgent.
It’s only fitting, then, that Converge gigs this week with two bands that sound very little like it. Oslo’s Kvelertak reimagines caustic metalcore as PBR-swilling boogie—a neat trick that likely inspired All We Love’s “Vicious Muse”—while Miami’s Torche matches sludged-out lows with hypermelodic guitar and vocal flights. Like the headliner, these outfits both dominate and expand their chosen zones.—Hank Shteamer
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing