At this point in its 22-year existence, Converge resembles a mass of scar tissue as much as a band. Throughout the ’90s, the hardcore outfit gradually, inexorably grew into its primal yet intricate sound—only to lance and cauterize it with 2001’s Jane Doe, one of the millennium’s most searing acts of musical aggression. That rage continues to cut both ways, outward and in; the group’s last album, 2009’s Axe To Fall, seethes with lightning and atmosphere alike. All We Love We Leave Behind is Axe’s follow-up, and its mix of confidence and desperation feels downright grizzled.
Much of that stems from frontman Jacob Bannon. On All We Love’s first half, he shrieks and whispers amid angry tangles of guitar. “Aimless Arrow” opens the album with a slow build into oppressive heaviness, a template used often throughout the disc. Bannon’s vulnerability is his strength—a poetic yet plainspoken plea that pulses beneath his scabrous howl. Songs like the groove-eaten “Empty On The Inside” and the short, swarming “Sparrow’s Fall” make the album feel like a random shuffle through Converge’s formidable bag of angst.
Things lock into place, though, on All We Love’s second half. Starting with the roiling, mournful atmosphere of “A Glacial Pace,” the disc flows seamlessly yet dynamically from cut to cut, culminating in the title track’s savage discharge of tribal rhythm and metallic, dissonant guitar. “Predatory Glow” is the perfectly titled closer, but its flat-lined, relatively flavorless rancor ends the album on an anticlimactic note. Then again, that may be the point. Bannon and crew have never favored tidy ends, sonic or otherwise. And while All We Love lacks cohesion in spots, it solidifies Converge’s position as one of hardcore’s most progressive yet soulful stalwarts.