“Every new record should be the best possible version of your band,” Jacob Bannon tells me from a secluded room somewhere in the Deathwish Inc. headquarters in Boston, Mass. The modern renaissance man—artist, label owner and vocalist of chaotic hardcore heroes Converge, among other things—has taken time out of his day to talk to me about his band’s new album, All We Love We Leave Behind, which will be released by Epitaph on Oct. 9. “I’ve always held the idea that if you’re making art, then the next thing you do should be a new step forward for you. The work that I made 10 years ago will have things in common with the things I make now, but I want to push things further and become a more cohesive artist and more successful in some way,” Bannon says. Listening to the new Converge album, it becomes clear that Bannon’s words are more than just the lip service that so many bands give as they release a new album—they’re completely fucking true.
The cornerstone of Converge’s music has always been raw emotion. Bannon’s mechanical, werewolf-like vocal snarl has always been the perfect complement to Kurt Ballou’s swirling chainsaw of a guitar and Ben Koller’s furious drumming. This is why “Aimless Arrow,” the first song on the new album, is so striking. It still sounds like Converge—their trademark loudness and the feeling of ever-so-slightly controlled chaos are still prevalent—but it also sounds remarkably tight and clean. “We really pushed ourselves to capture the best possible performances—the most precise, the most emotional, the most soulful—and I think you hear that,” Bannon says. Even more surprisingly, Bannon’s vocals are immediately decipherable—a rarity in Converge’s music, and a calculated move on the band’s part. “With this record, I recorded with a different handheld microphone, which gave Kurt some flexibility and some tones and stuff while mixing, whereas before, things were just this big, monstrous sound that you couldn’t get much clarity out of. I always liked it that way, but he pushed me to do something else, and I reluctantly agreed and went for it,” he says.
From “Aimless Arrow,” the band moves into brutal D-beat territory with “Trespasses” and “Tender Abuse,” where Bannon again showcases a more varied vocal delivery. “Sadness Comes Home” features a surprisingly proggy main riff from Ballou and prominent backing vocals from bassist Nate Newton. Slow weirdness pervades “A Glacial Pace” and “Coral Blue,” while the title track encapsulates every single thing the album does right into four glorious, haunting minutes. Each Converge album is an experience, and All We Love We Leave Behind captures Converge as a tightly focused machine, firing on all cylinders, independent of outside influences and highly emotional.
Part of the experience of each new Converge album is Bannon’s iconic art. All We Love We Leave Behind is no exception. The cover art is yet another surprise, as it is far more restrained than may be expected, consisting simply of a black and white representation of the moon’s cycles incorporated with the band’s logo. The wholly engrossing feeling of a physical album is something that Bannon feels is becoming lost with the current generation of music listeners, but something that Converge strives hard to maintain. “When we create records that have a lot of content and our music has a lot of lyrical content, we want it to be experienced the way that we used to listen to records when we were kids. We want people to sit there with the lyric book or the album cover and feel it and experience it and take in all the subtle little things about an album and listen to it that way,” he says.
For the first time ever, Converge also produced a deluxe version of the album featuring a 50-page book of new art from Bannon. “Working with Epitaph, one thing that [label owner] Brett Gurewitz has always communicated to us is that he always appreciated our band on a variety of levels—he wanted to always be able to show our band in a more formal, artistic light. The suggestion for a deluxe version had come up for a few records in the past, but the idea just never came to fruition,” Bannon says. After recording All We Love We Leave Behind, though, the label approached Bannon about a deluxe edition at just the right time, as he was already creating a wide variety of art for the album, but had not quite decided on the exact direction for the cover. The result is a large, varied collection of work from Bannon, and yet another stunning piece for Converge fans to add to their collections. Surprisingly, the deluxe version of the album is only available with a CD, but Bannon explains that it was unrealistic to take the same route with a vinyl version and have it cost any less than $80. “I don’t feel ethically comfortable with that. I know there are some people out there who would pay that, but I wouldn’t,” he says. “One of the mottos for our band is that we never want to do anything or make anything that we wouldn’t want to consume on the other end as listeners and fans of other bands.”