By Sam SutherlandThe consistency of the recorded output of hardcore giants Converge is unparalleled ― there isn't another band in aggressive music functioning today that manage to push out into new sonic directions with each album they release without making some painful miscalculations. For over a decade, Converge have remained the flag bearers for a whole scene, reinventing their face-melting mix of metal and hardcore in subtle ways with every new record. Axe to Fall sees the band experimenting further with the progressive tendencies hinted at with No Heroes standout "Grim Heart/Black Rose," as well as inviting a stacked list of guests to contribute to what the band are referring to as their "collaborative piece." Writing with members of Neurosis, Entombed, Himsa and more, songs like "Wretched World," featuring contributions from every member of Genghis Tron and drummers from both the Red Chord and Cave In, succeed in forging an unforgettably epic sonic landscape without becoming overwrought or unmanageable. Converge remain at the core of every song here, driving the proceedings and controlling the momentum, but their tasteful inclusion of outside influences elevates Axe to Fall to whole new levels of heavy, heady creativity.
Given that this record is what you've been referring to as a "collaborative piece," I'm, curious how the writing process worked. Were you bringing people in to write brand-new parts or were you offering ideas and letting them write from there? Vocalist Jacob Bannon: It's still very much a Converge record; it's totally coming from us. But the collaborative element was a true collaborative element. The songs all began with us and began as ideas that we had, and they evolved and moved forward with other players involved. Since the intention was to have certain songs be a collaboration with other artists, we left those a little open-ended to work with those people, rather than giving them a rigid song structure to adhere to, and we could hear some of their ideas come in, and they could be more comfortable contributing. A lot of guests on albums tend to come in, play a part and leave ― there isn't real interaction. We wanted to avoid that. We wanted people to be a true part of the songwriting and a true part of the finished project. An example is Genghis Tron, who were sending us demos back and forth of their contributions. The Cave In material, they were working with us for years on that, so it was pretty natural as well.
Was there a point in trying to construct the songs that way where you were concerned about it not working? No. We've been a band for a long time. We're not egotistical but we're confident. We're confident in our ability to perform and play and write; we are up for the challenge. We knew something interesting would come out of it. We'd never release something that we weren't wholly excited about and this record is no different. If something was sub-par, we wouldn't have pushed forward and finished it. We just want to create the best possible album we can and share that with people.
Were there any concerns that you would have trouble recreating it live? No. There are songs on every album that we play live and don't play live. A lot of that has to do with instrumentation, but a lot of it has to do with how the pacing of an album and the pacing of a live set are completely different. Live sets tend to be much more kinetic and energetic, where albums deal more with listenability and pacing and trying to create a different kind of environment. We still play some songs that are kind of reserved that might not be traditional in a hardcore or metal set but they tend to work with us.
What about the process of recording with Kurt [Ballou, Converge guitarist and owner of God City Studios]? Has that evolved or is it a process that's locked in every time you make a record? It is and it isn't. We've gotten better at it, and we're learning with every record. Every record Kurt records, he becomes a better engineer. We just evolve and move forward in our experiences with every record and hopefully it shows. (Epitaph)