Parker’s Profound Portfolio Probes – Axe To Fall by Converge

Parkers Profound Portfolio Probes - Axe To Fall by Converge

Parker Traman, Writer

Parker’s Profound Portfolio Probes

Axe To Fall by Converge

After quite the hiatus, I am back to continue Parker’s Profound Portfolio Probes (or Parker talks about music for two pages of writing). Another entity returning from a hiatus is Converge, as they’ve returned this year and released the collaborative, Bloodmoon: I, featuring Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm, and Stephen Brodsky (hey, remember him? I’m gonna mention him a lot).

But sadly, I’m not going to review the latest Converge release, although it would be more fitting to. Instead I’ve come up with a neat gimmick. I’ll be reviewing Converge records in my personal order from favorite to least favorite, and now, I must review my second favorite Converge record.

Previously, I reviewed Jane Doe by Converge ( and I gave that some really high praise, and you must be thinking, “How could any record come close to that?”

Case in point, Axe To Fall, the 2009 record released by Converge following the releases of 2004’s You Fail Me and 2006’s No Heroes.

For a period of time, Axe To Fall was my favorite Converge record, and at times, still is. But I’m usually more in the mood for something like Jane Doe. Unlike that aforementioned 2001 record, Axe To Fall provides a depressing atmosphere with reflective lyrics on life, government, and pain, as well as providing one of Converge’s most diverse list of tracks.

This record ranges anywhere from fast-paced and punky tracks, to slow, sludgy cuts, and finally fantastical blends of doom and progressive metal. Let me tell you, it’s a journey.

Before we head in, I’m going to mention how the majority of this record is collaborative, as a number of artists chip in when it comes to the songwriting and recording. Such musicians include Stephen Brodsky (there he is), Steve Von Till of Neurosis, members from techcore band Genghis Tron, and Sean Martin, formerly of Hatebreed.

Without much further ado, let’s dive in.

“Dark Horse” begins our journey as the lone song to only feature members of Converge. The foursome of Jacob Bannon, Kurt Ballou, Nate Newton, and Ben Koller provide us with a flawless track, and easily one the band’s best.

The opening drum roll feels like a call to arms as well as a scream to anyone listening to simply go crazy, and the bass riff in the background provides a heavy undertone.

Once the riff hits, we are provided with a power metal-like lick, as Ballou plays a frenzy of notes, weaving together beautifully with his fellow bandmates.

Bannon joins in with his talk-yell (previously mentioned on my Jane Doe review), but only this time, he’s a lot better at it. See, the records following Jane Doe saw Jacob alter his voice in various ways, as his screams became more ferocious (crazy, I know), his clean vocals improved immensely, and he began using his talk-yell quite often.

The lyrics to this song are somewhat uplifting, for an otherwise dark record, as the call to arms comment I made before is apparent with passages such as: “The dark horse will one day come; To free the light from all of us; One day the dark horse will come”, “No matter the man or the machine; Beasts will become what; They were meant to be; In the name of lovers; In the name of wars; We’ll show the demons; For what they are”, and “Dark horse ride; Towards the light; Dark horse right onward; Towards the light; Onward.”

Sadly (or fortunately) that hope the band displays quickly dissolves as the record progresses, and especially on the track it leads into, track two, “Reap What You Sow.”

Taking its name from the Bible, the song applies the statement to the real world, consistently proclaiming that “We; Reap; We; Sow.”

The song keeps the same energy as its predecessor however, as Sean Martin steps on the guitar, letting Ballou take the backseat. This is most noticeable during the guitar solo, yes, the guitar solo.

The album doesn’t let up at all, as “Reap What You Sow” leads into the title track, and the barely minute-forty long song makes the most of its time.

George Hirsch from hardcore outfit Blacklisted comes in to assist Bannon on vocals during the chant that defines self-confidence, as they shout, “I need to learn to love me.”

That’s the overall theme of this record as it seems, learning to accept yourself and believe in yourself as a human being; to simply love yourself.

That being said, the title track is as intense and guttural as it gets, unrelenting in every way.

After distorted noises finish the track, we yet again don’t get a break in the action (something this record does a lot), as “Effigy” grabs us by the throat and doesn’t let go during its one-minute and forty-three second run time.

Here, Stephen Brodsky and members of Cave In do the heavy lifting, as lyrics reflecting upon society (we live in a society) bellow out of Bannon’s mouth. In the background, an elegant guitar solo-like riff bleeds through.

After “Effigy” wraps up in all of its intense glory, we finally get a slower, groovier track, that being the sludge metal cut, “Worms Will Feed / Rats Will Feast.”

Given the nature of its title, this track is grimy, as the production allows for the guitar to sound like a saw cutting through bone, and Bannon sounds like a savage animal, ready to tear into his prey.

Newton finally leads the vocals charge on this song, as during the chorus he shouts: “Left your throne in foreclosed homes; Claimed that crown of decay; Built castle walls with blood and bone; To shield your soul from wither and decay.”

The track lasts well over the five minute mark, and almost lasts six, as it gives us a sneak peek of the album’s diversity.

The lingering “Worms Will Feed / Rats Will Feast” culminates in a slow burn that leads into one single pulsing guitar that signals the beginning of “Wishing Well.”

Still keeping with the slower style of its predecessor, “Wishing Well” amps us the punk intensity, but keeps the majority of the hulking atmosphere “Worms Will Feed” possesses.

A song about holding on to the past, it picks up towards the end, as a guitar solo leads us into a slow breakdown-like part, that descends into a barrage of fast drums and disjointed guitars.

“Wishing Well” comes and goes, as we are meeted with a complete change of tone as “Damages” wraps the distorted ending of “Wishing Well” up in a little bow by simply bringing forth one simple drum pattern, and a slow riffing guitar with occasional bass hits.

But if we’ve learned anything about Converge, it’s that they never hold back from intensity, and this song finally shows us its fangs, as Ballou lets out a large riff, and drums only utilizing their toms come into play.

This is one of the rare tracks that doesn’t break out into full metal, as while “Worms Will Feed” and “Wishing Well” were slow, they at least added a massive metal overtone. “Damages” doesn’t do that, as it instead goes heavy, but reserved, never letting out until the end, but even then, it’s slow and methodical.

This track is a personal favorite of mine, especially when Newton comes in to sing, and his bass crunches in the background.

When “Damages” ends, we are greeted with by far the weakest track on the record, “Losing Battle.”

This is the closest thing this album has to a “nothing song,” or a song that doesn’t provide anything.

The drum pattern that opens the song is killer, but the rest of the song is anything but. I don’t know if it’s skip worthy, but it’s not one I tend to play very often.

Luckily, a much better track follows, as “Dead Beat” is one of the very best tracks this record has to offer.

Possessing possibly the most depressing lyrics on the entire album, “Dead Beat” also adds some melodic flavors in its guitar riffs.

This track reminds me of “Reap What You Sow” with its intensity and melodic nature.

Yet again we are greeted with a great track, as “Cutter” is the next track in the order.

“Cutter” is interesting, as it no doubt has the heaviest guitar riff on the entire album, and continues the depressing theme of the album, however, it’s inspirations are worn on its sleeve, those being thrash metal.

Bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax are noticeable influences, and it’s nice to see that Converge at times pays homage to the pioneers of the genre.

Another weaker track follows “Cutter,” as we are transported to “Slave Driver.” Unlike “Losing Battle,” “Slave Driver” isn’t a nothing track. While I don’t find it particularly amazing, I do find it to be a track worthy of a listen.

It contains a slow burn in terms of an opening, and doesn’t hold back during its nearly three minute runtime.

Once “Slave Driver” ends, we are given one of the oddest one-two punches in Converge’s history…and it’s amazing.

“Cruel Bloom” is a slow, somewhat western style song, led by post-metal outfit Neurosis’ vocalist, Steve Von Till.

The track gives off haunting vibes, with its ensemble vocal delivery towards the end. But once Von Till holds his notes, the track descends into a heavy and slowwwwwwww movement that lasts us for the rest of track.

For a while, this was my top track on the record because quite simply, Converge has never replicated it.

Finally, we are given the closer of the record. While not as amazing as Jane Doe’s title track closer, Axe To Fall’s is no slouch, here is “Wretched World”.

Members of Genghis Tron came to write and help record this track, and their electronic influences bleed into the music.

Odd noises play in the background, as some hauntingly beautiful lyrics pour out of the vocals.  This track is a motivator, detailing a person who seems to have lost all satisfaction in life, overtaken by their faults and their damages (two Converge song references in that one sentence). Ultimately, this person wears their past on their sleeve, picking themselves up and moving on, out of their wretched world.

And there you have it, Axe To Fall, one of Converge’s finest.

This record is never lacking in diversity and taste, and provides a little something for every metal fan. Upon that, it’s a difficult listen lyrically, but if you can connect, you can enjoy it.

As I said, sometimes this is at the top of my Converge list, sometimes it’s second, but nonetheless it is a fantastic record I highly recommend.

9.5 / 10 (Amazing)

Track Rankings:

#1:) “Dark Horse”
#2:) “Cruel Bloom”
#3:) “Reap What You Sow”

#4:) “Dead Beat”
#5:) “Axe To Fall”
#6:) “Damages”
#7:) “Wretched World”
#8:) “Effigy”
#9:) “Wishing Well”
#10:) “Worms Will Feed / Rats Will Feast”
#11:) “Cutter”
#12:) “Slave Driver”
#13:) “Losing Battle”