July 2021 Feature Release – The Revolution Edition
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Revolution has been nominated by shadowdoom9 (Andi). It's 2004's classic "You Fail Me" album from Massachusetts-based mathcore/metalcore legends Converge. This release definitely sits up towards the elite end of The Revolution's scope & is the product of some amazing skill sets & ambition so I'm expecting some pretty strong feelings on this one.
Thank you Daniel for accepting my Revolution feature release submission! Here's my summary:
Some think of You Fail Me as a superb success while other think it's a failing letdown. I can see that the band has really evolved since the beginning and it's a matter of good and bad opinions about the change. In my opinion, Converge still has their immense sound in this album. Here you'll find many short savage metalcore/mathcore songs with screaming vocal attack, brutally technical drumming, and heavy intense guitarwork, along with two longer experimental sludge tracks. You Fail Me is no ordinary album. It takes a while for your brain to fully grasp it, and it would help by listening to the previous albums. The short album length (35 minutes without bonus track) is the right length for this album and other hardcore/metalcore albums like this. This album is 99% perfect without any major flaws! The songwriting and production is so intense and brilliant. Sure there are some songs that are weaker than others, but this album works best when listened to entirely. Call it the band's low point if you want, but this shows Converge unleashing their evolving genius. Any fan of heavy intensity should listen to this band and this album. Converge will never fail you!
Recommended tracks: Last Light, Black Cloud, Drop Out, You Fail Me, Eagles Become Vultures, In Her Blood
For fans of: Botch, Gaza, The Dillinger Escape Plan
My review from earlier this year:
Massachusetts’ finest mathcore exponents Converge & I have had a fairly fruitful relationship over the last decade or so. I first encountered them through their 1996 sophomore album “Petitioning The Empty Sky” shortly after release & whilst I had a bit of time for it, there would be a gap of more than a decade before our paths would cross again following my extended hiatus from the metal scene. Upon returning to the passion of my youth in 2009, I quickly caught on to the buzz surrounding the band’s “Jane Doe” LP which inevitably led to me immersing myself in the rest of Converge’s back catalogue. This included the follow-up to “Jane Doe” in 2004’s “You Fail Me” which saw the band initiating a new business relationship with punk rock label Epitaph Record. Epitaph was owned & run by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz & had built a strong reputation as a breeding ground for commercially successful punk bands like NOFX, Pennywise, The Offspring, Rancid & Bad Religion for over two decades by this stage so it was a move that opened up opportunities for a hardcore-based band like Converge. “You Fail Me” would also be the band’s first album as a four-piece following the departure of guitarist Aaron Dalbec who was asked to leave after the band & their management became concerned with Aaron’s increasing focus on his hardcore punk side project Bane.
Epitaph would recruit experienced producer Alan Douches to produce “You Fail Me” in partnership with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou & the result seems to have received mixed responses from what I’ve read online over the years. In fact, Ballou has openly stated that he felt the original mix was lacking something & put that down to engineer Matt Ellard’s lack of comfort & familiarity with the mixing desk he was asked to use & also having to battle through consistent power failures throughout the process. I’m not sure if the Spotify version I’ve been listening to this week is the one that was later remixed by Ballou & remastered by Douches for the 2016 “redux” edition or not but I certainly don’t have any problems with how it sounds. On the contrary, it’s a perfect representation of where Converge were at at this particular moment in time. The separation between the instruments is spot on & each band member receives a clarity & brightness that hasn’t always been afforded to metalcore bands over the years. There’s enough crunch to crush the listener under the weight of the heavier moments but enough subtlety to ensure that the nuances of Converge’s newly stripped back sound are also highlighted. The rhythm section sound particularly impressive in my opinion so there’s very little to complain about in this regard.
It’s interesting to see how Converge have developed their sound in the three years since Jane Doe & I’d be keen to hear how much the band members feel the new label & line-up have contributed to that. This is an extremely professionally put together package & it shows a newly found maturity in the band’s song-writing skills with a number of fresh ideas being presented with universally successful results. The four-piece lineup seems to have had some sort of impact on the direction of this material as it’s noticeably less dense & more stripped back than its gargantuan older brother “Jane Doe” & there’s also a fair bit more melody on display. Short opener “First Light” is a prime example of Converge’s exciting new approach with its atmospheric unaccompanied guitar work openly paying homage to Neil Young’s “Dead Man” soundtrack; a beautifully atmospheric record whose wonders I’ve basked in repeatedly for more than two decades now. The next track “Last Light” would also hint at the themes presented in the opener to great effect. Then we also get lengthy acoustic track “In Her Shadow” in the middle of the album; an experiment that has inevitably caused great divide amongst long-time fans. Personally, I think it works to break the record up nicely with its post-rock feel even hinting at psychedelia at times. But never fear all you metalcore fans, there’s more than enough heavy stuff included to satisfy your crazed thirst for rabid mosh-pits. My personal favourite is the gigantic title track which sees the band going for a sludgier approach driven by Nate Newton’s huge bass sound. Its use of repetition to build tension works brilliantly & I think it’s one of the best moments in Converge’s career overall. But “You Fail Me” also sees Converge returning to their hardcore punk roots more regularly than they did on “Jane Doe” & unsurprisingly those moments are the ones that appeal to me the least on the album (see “Eagles Become Vultures” for example). But, impressively, there are no genuinely weak tracks included here & it’s hard to argue with the band’s status at the top of the mathcore/metalcore tree.
Converge were a class act at this stage in their careers & everything is presented with purpose & precision & (even though metalcore isn’t my subgenre of choice) I find it hard not to really dig everything this band touches. The consistency in this material is almost intimidating to be honest. A lot of these tracks blur the lines between mathcore & traditional metalcore with the technicality that was so obvious on “Jane Doe” being more subtly utilized but no less impactful here; another a sign of the band’s new-found maturity. It sounds like Converge are more focused on song-writing & artistic expression rather than simply pulverizing the listener into submission or amazing their audience with their undoubted techniques. There’s an increased level of precision about everything they do & it makes the techier arrangements sound so fluent that it would probably be pretty easy for the more complex arrangements to fly straight over the untrained listener’s heads. This band is so talented & virtuosic by this stage that it’s almost embarrassing. Drummer Ben Koller is the clear highlight for me personally though & I regularly find myself having to pick my jaw up off the ground after those high-speed snare rolls he specializes in. What a band!
Front man Jacob Bannon’s vocal performance is a little different to what it was previously. The lyrical content is all about human failure & he uses a variety of techniques to get his point across. Personally, I’ve always found him to be the least appealing aspect of the band & that doesn’t change here. It’s mainly his more aggressive moments that I struggle with. His trademark shrieks of raw vitriol often sound like he’s spitting his lyrics out through a mouth-full of phlegm & he doesn’t possess the strength & power of many of his contemporaries. In fact, I often wonder if it’s Bannon’s contributions that leave me seeing my scoring of Converge albums being limited to the three & a half’s & four’s but I usually end up deciding that it’s more of an overall stylistic thing as no matter how good Converge are at their chosen craft, I’m not too sure they’ll ever manage to get me reaching for the higher scores.
Overall, “You Fail Me” showcases an extremely talented group of musicians flexing their creative muscles & continually pushing themselves artistically, musically & technically. It’s a more accessible record than “Jane Doe” was but its impact is felt in different & more subtle ways. I admire this album as a musician & a lover of music & it may just have been Converge’s best release to the time in my opinion.
For fans of: Botch, Drowningman, The Dillinger Escape Plan.
As I get older the lines of my listening habits appear to blur all the more easily. I could have sworn that I had made my mind up a long time ago that Converge were not for me. All the furore surrounding Jane Doe was completely lost on me. Largely due to Bannon's vocal style just not really convincing me that he had the power in his pipes to punch at this weight. I don't recall much else about that record if I am honest, I find that if I pick out one element of something that I really don't like I am either dismissive of the whole or spend an eternity trying to look past the element of dissatisfaction until the whole thing clicks or I end up lamenting on losing hours of my life for no real positive outcome.
It's fair to say that I enjoy You Fail Me a lot more than I was expecting to. The hardcore punk elements shine through really well and keep me interested when things have gone a bit sour (In Her Shadow being a particular sour point on the album for me). As an album it has a consistency in terms of intensity that is quite alluring. However, at the same time it has a draining aspect to it also, meaning that I am sort of grateful that it is over when the record finishes. That is not supposed to be as negative a statement as it probably sounds, more me pointing out that the transferral of emotion from the artist to the listener here is done really well. Converge give you something to take away and think about, hold in your hands, flip over a few times and remember its ugly yet enticing content.
Still there's moments were Bannon gets on my tits still but his bandmates rescue him on most occasions. I mean Ben Koller is simply fantastic with his explosive style and is definitely the standout performance here for me. Ballou's riffing has the standard metalcore/mathcore elements present but I also like the odd groovy riff that comes into play every now and again. I don't hear a lot of bass on most tracks (maybe this is why they remixed the album and re-released it?). I mean, I know it is there most definitely but it does seem to struggle for presence on most tracks.
So, I have added this into my stream which is not something that I would ever thought a possibility in all honesty. The fact is though that this album packs a real punch and the bruising does not fade very quickly at all.
It looks like the last time Converge was in the MA spotlight was back in September of 2020 and I gotta say, I'm still in a tough spot with them. Converge is easily my most respected Metalcore band considering how genuine to the actual genre they are, but I still just don't know how to feel about them. All We Love We Leave Behind was an obvious winner for me, but this one puts me in a similar position that Jane Doe did where I think I get it, but I still can't form any meaningful opinions on how I feel about it. They've definitely cleaned a lot of things up to make it less of the relentless cluster that Jane Doe was an while to some people that may make You Fail Me a bit less heartfelt, it works to give the album a bit more structure for people with my listening biases. I think I prefer this one slightly over Jane Doe but at the same time it has a bit less of that shock factor. Still an impressive showing of what tried and true professionals of more classic sounding Metalcore can do, but man, I'm going to have to figure out a way to meaningfully collect my thoughts on a single Converge album to write out what I actually think about them instead of not really knowing what to say every 6 or so months.