CONVERGE : Axe To Fall

Axe To Fall

Just read Pitchfork’s Review for Converge’s new album “Axe To Fall” and let me say it’s dead on. So I’m not going to attempt to write one. I haven’t received my vinyl in the mail yet but did get a chance to stream the album from myspace a few million times before they took the stream down. You can read the review below. I also want to note that this is some of the best writing I have read in a while. While Converge’s new album is extremely passionate and well written so is Lee’s review.

Converge are this generation’s Black Flag. This generation might not remember Black Flag, so here’s a refresher. In the early 1980s, Black Flag and peers like Bad Brains and Minor Threat took punk beyond “three chords and the truth.” The result was hardcore punk. It was deliberately ugly and harsh; Clash-fetishizing critics have mostly ignored it. Black Flag epitomized DIY– they booked their own shows, handed out their own flyers, rehearsed with military discipline, and put out records on guitarist Greg Ginn’s label, SST. Despite shifting lineups, their mission never wavered: to destroy.

Destruction isn’t Converge’s agenda. They differ from Black Flag in that aspect: They build things up, not tear them down. But they can do so because of Black Flag’s groundwork. Black Flag made it okay to fight cops, to fight fans, and to do what punk always promised but rarely did: be oneself. The band was both explosive and implosive. It was destined to end.

Converge have learned from Black Flag’s mistakes. They work as a team and have taken DIY to new levels. Singer Jacob Bannon runs the Deathwish, Inc. label and does artwork for Converge and other bands. Guitarist Kurt Ballou runs a recording studio and has become this generation’s Steve Albini. Bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller have made waves with other bands like Doomriders and Cave In. Together, they whip up a catharsis matched by few. They play hard and wear their hearts on their sleeves. As a result, kids in droves wear Converge on their sleeves. (The band’s Twitter handle is “convergecult.”) No other current punk band’s imagery is as iconic. The face on the cover of 2001’s Jane Doe, the hand on the cover of 2004’s You Fail Me– they are the Black Flag bars of today.

The band wasn’t always so potent. It took a few albums to work through a wiry hybrid of mathcore and metal. Jane Doe was Converge’s watershed, honing their sound to a lean, abrasive essence. Over You Fail Me and 2006’s No Heroes, it expanded to include slower, abstract sludge. Black Flag went through a similar transformation. Their landmark album My War was equal parts lightning and Black Sabbath. Axe to Fall is Converge’s My War.

The album is, to quote The Exorcist and Pantera, a vulgar display of power. Bannon’s howl is exfoliating. His lyrics aren’t hard to parse: “I need to learn to love me”; “No longer feel anyone/ No longer fear anything.” Basic stuff, but it reaches deep and pulls no punches. Ballou’s guitar dials up the crackle of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All. It gallops, shoots electric arcs, dives down to subterranean depths. Ballou mines the upper register more than ever before, turning leads into leitmotifs. The frenzied pull-offs in “Dark Horse” are pure Kirk Hammett; the supercharged chug of “Reap What You Sow” recalls the fire of early Megadeth. Ballou isn’t really playing metal– his band is too short-haired and quirky for that– but he’s out-metalling 99% of metal bands today. Newton’s bass heaves dirt divots; Koller’s kit is so murderous, it’s practically the sound of ethnic cleansing. The title track rotates through thrash beats, blastbeats, and d-beats like a race car driver shifting gears. It’s fast, greasy, and loud as a motherfucker.

Axe to Fall isn’t all axes, though. It’s also anvils and stone pillows and beds of fallen leaves. The record is perfectly sequenced. It starts with three seamless barnburners, then settles into smooth toggling between slow and fast. The slow numbers likely won’t get live airing– kids prefer speed– but they’re amazing constructions of texture and friction. Near the end, piano and glockenspiel make like Tom Waits and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They’re elegiac and haunting, an inversion of the napalm death that preceded them. A huge array of guests help out, representing acts like Disfear, 108, Genghis Tron, and Neurosis. They are too many to list, but the bottom line is, they work. Whether they’re yelling, singing, or laying down leads, they fit their songs. And that in itself is fitting.

— Cosmo Lee, October 29, 2009

TRUE NIHILIST

True Nihilist

First off let me start out saying two things…

01. The Hope Conspiracy rules.
02. Thomas Hooper rules as well.

With that being said I don’t think 7 inch EPs rule hard enough. Now don’t get me wrong, I love paying 4 or 5 bucks for a record with amazing songs and artwork. Most seven inch artwork is always better than full length artwork (Hope Con “Hang Your Cross” EP packaging anyone?). I’m just spoiled. I want it all and I want it right now. Three songs just doesn’t do it for me. Especially when it’s from The Hope Conspiracy. I hate waiting. I was worried after “Death Knows Your Name” was released, how can they live up to that? How are they going to change but still keep it real? I personally don’t think “True Nihilist” is as good as “Death Knows Your Name” but that’s okay, it shouldn’t be, it’s just a 7 inch, a preview of what’s to come, not a full length which are usually always better than the seven inch release before it. And what’s to come is looking promising. Angry, fast, everything I could want from the Hope Conspiracy. Artwork is amazing, lyrics are amazing… now I’m just waiting for the full length.

8/10
Favorite Track – In The Shadow Of God

OUR CIRCLE IS VICIOUS

Our Circle Is Vicious

First off I would just like to talk about music and where it’s going. I had a chat with my brother and “The Kid” the other day and was asking them if they had money would they buy cds… nope. They could care less about having a cd or anything like that. It makes me feel like an old timer because I can’t wrap my hands around the idea of buying a data file. I know we are in different times now but man, I love owning vinyl, cd, dvds, whatever. I like the nostalgia and culture that comes with having a tangible object. Especially if I’m going to be paying the same price without getting the object. Maybe it’s a designer thing. The packaging, the artwork, etc. Anyway, I would like to thank Deathwish Inc. for continuing to sell vinyl. I would also like to thank them for hooking me up with the digital copy of Rise and Fall’s new album “Our Circle Is Vicious” as soon as I pre-ordered the vinyl. What a great company.

As I write this from my job (bored out of my mind) I’m trying to think about how to explain how I feel about “Our Circle Is Vicious.” It’s been a while since their last full length and their single “Clawing” left me wanting more for a long time. Rise and Fall are one of those bands that make me excited about hardcore and heavy music in general. It’s not just the music, it’s the imagery, the mood, the lyrics, the merchandise that make this band everything it is. A lot of bands have decent music and great artwork/merchandise or great music with garbage visual style. It’s hard to find a band that marries the music and culture so well. Anyway, the album is great. It’s exactly what I expected. It’s trippier than ever before and darker as well. The faster parts are louder and the vocals are more raw. I still have to listen to it a thousand more times to really appreciate it, but as of right now it has been worth the wait.

9/10
Favorite Track – Knowing

Rise and Fall
Deathwish Inc.

MAMA, I’M SWOLLEN

Mama, I'm Swollen

So I got the new Cursive album “Mama, I’m Swollen”. I had a burned album of “Happy Hollow” and listened to it a fair amount. My favorite album from them has always been “The Ugly Organ” and I did enjoy “Domestica” as well. I’ve listened to this new one about three times now. I usually don’t listen to an album enough before I talk about it on here and end up liking most albums more than I say after I post on this. This might be the same situation. That being said, here is what I think as of right now.

I am pretty displeased with this album. The first track “In The Now” really had me going. I liked the yelling, the fast pace and the intensity. I had heard the second track from some preview site and thought it was okay… just okay. A little too clean for my liking. Everything on this album sounds crisp (not a good thing in my point of view). The only songs that really stood out to me (as of now) were “In The Now”, “Mama, I’m satan” and “Mama, I’m Swollen”. The only thing that really sold “Mama, I’m satan” for me was the end of the song. It’s not that I just want to hear heavier, yelling, fast parts. I miss the voice I heard on “Ugly Organ”. I miss the strained, upset, brooding voice. Maybe they spoiled me with “Domestica” and “The Ugly Organ” but it doesn’t change the fact that this album is not the mood I want it to be. I know bands grow and change and evolve and that’s fine. I hope they have great success and are playing the music they really want to. I just want to hear the rasp in his voice, I want to hear what I think is passion. I guess it’s not coming through for me yet. I don’t know if I should be comparing to their previous albums or just talking about this album but it’s hard not to compare with their previous releases being so good. All this album does for me is make me appreciate “The Ugly Organ”. I’ll keep listening and hoping that I connect to it on some level, even if it’s not the level I want it to be.

TIME WAITS FOR NO SLAVE

Time Waits For No Slave Artwork

Just got the new Napalm Death CD. I haven’t listened to it enough to write a detailed review but I’ve got to say that this CD is awesome. I’m not too big on the album artwork. The cover is good but I’m not feeling the inside. Anyway, check it out. It’s a good listen if you like death metal, grind, heavy stuff.

And in other juicy news, the rest of my spring break will be juiced with homework. Great.

MUSIC : EMPIRE

Empire, members of Triceratops and Broke As A Joke, from Columbus are my new favorite band. I just downloaded their demo today. I saw them live a while ago with Trapped Under Ice and it was a phenomenal show. It’s a Phenomenal demo. I suggest you check out their page… here… and download their demo. It’s free. It’s dark. It’s fast. It’s heavy. Everything I want, love and need. In a way it makes me jealous and unhappy. On the same note it makes me glad I can feel something for hardcore again. It’s a brilliant mix of stoner, doom, punk-hardcore with really heavy beats. Lyrics are on point too. One of my favorite lines would have to be “the world’s going to end and all I want is a front row seat”.

Favorite Track – Burn Down The World
Empire

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING : Dark Knight Packaging

So after seeing the movie The Dark Knight this summer I was just as excited as everyone else was for the DVD release until I got it in my hands. For such a detail oriented, well filmed, well promoted, conceptual film I am so dissapointed in the DVD packaging and have to ask “what were you thinking?”

It makes me so mad to know that people got paid to take an image from the movie and make it shiny or take the bat mask and make it into a lunch box style dvd case. The movie was dark, the movie was exciting, the movie was dramatic, how about we incorporate that into the packaging? I’m not saying it was terrible packaging (well the special edition target packaging is) but there is no concept or originality. I believe that the presentation of the movie should be handled with as much consideration that the movie was. This is what people are going to own. This is what people are going to let others borrow, put on shelves, give as presents, and their kids kids will watch. Click the link below to check out the packaging. Like I said, some of it is not horrible but for the most part a serious let down. I could not find a link that had the pictures of the Target special edition packaging that I got but it is by far the most horrid out of all of them. They will probably get it right the second time around when the studios decide they need more money so they re-release a special deluxe super collectors gold edition.

Regular Dark Knight Packaging

H20 – Nothing To Prove

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So I would like to review a band that I really never got into. I’m not going to lie. I was into the west coast punk bands when I was little. Bad Religion, Pennywise, etc. I never got into H20. This is the first record I own from them and I am in love. I have never done a drug in my life and I claimed straight edge when I was ten which makes it 14 years since I have been straight edge. I have seen most of my friends claim straight edge and break it so hearing a record with a song like “Still Here” on it makes me so happy and proud to be straight edge. I am going to write the lyrics because I think everyone (straight edge or not) should read them. You might not agree with the straight edge life style but for so many kids to claim straight edge and drop it so quickly as the tides change really is something to be proud of. Yeah, the other songs on this album are absolutely great but I am so happy about the song “Still Here” it’s all I can listen to. There are a few songs on their myspace from the new album but “Still Here” is not listed. Anyway, here is the link to their space and here are the lyrics to “Still Here”.

http://www.myspace.com/h2ofamily

StillHere
Straight edge before you were born, heard Minor Threat and it was on, it was on. 38 years edge what the fuck you gotta say? Is anyone out there still here today?

Nailed to the X, man I live this shit. I am an SEOG don’t ever forget it. They said my views would change but they never did.

Still here, still here after all these fuckin years. Where did you go? Still here, sincere after all these fucking years where did you go?

To all the new kids, this is a way to live. It’s not a passing trend, a way to fit in. I never preached shit, I just spoke my mind. To live a positive life and don’t want your time.

Nailed to the edge man I live this shit. I am an SEOG, don’t ever forget it. All my friends did it all but I never gave in…

TOP ALBUMS OF 2008

The Carrier
No Love Can Save Me

Favorite Track – Epilogue

Lil Wayne
Carter III

Favorite Track – Epilogue

Ceremony
Still Nothing Moves You

Favorite Track – Dead Moon California

Cursed
Architects of Troubled Sleep

Favorite Track – Night Terrors

Trapped Under Ice
Stay Cold

Favorite Track – Skeleton Heads

The Game
LAX

Favorite Track – My Life

Mogwai
The Hawk Is Howling

Favorite Track – I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead

Cold World
Dedicated to Babies That Came Feet First

Favorite Track – All The Things…

H20
Nothing To Prove

Favorite Track – Still Here

Trash Talk
Plagues

Favorite Track – Scatter

Pennywise
Reason To Believe

Favorite Track – Something To Live For

Jake Bannon
The Blood Of Thine Enemies

Favorite Track – 1

Immortal Technique
The 3rd World

Favorite Track – Payback

Reign Supreme
American Violence

Favorite Track – I Stand Defiant