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LABEL: Equal Vision Records RELEASE DATE: April 14, 1998 GENRE: Hardcore
// review by Jeff

Sir, you need to be quiet.

Consider the mild-mannered infamous rockers of AC/DC. (Yes, I forgot the little thunderbolt. Sue me.) Now, put them in a gigantic blender, add a few steroids for flavour, and hit frappé. Wait... wait... wait... Ah, it's done! Pour the result into a glass. And here we have Converge, the band from Salem, Massachusetts that seems very very angry about something that they really ought not to be so angry about. The band themselves classify their work as "aggressive music", and that's exactly what it is. Unfortunately for them, it's not a style that appeals to everybody.

The vocalist sounds like a very ticked-off Brian Johnson. Or perhaps he sounds more like he's giving birth, and that baby really doesn't want to come out. Either way, he is beyond incoherent. Even with the lyrics plainly in front of me, I still couldn't follow along with him. This is absolutely absurd and it was not even worth my now-wasted time trying to decipher the idiotic shrieking of vocalist Jacob Bannon. Therefore, this album is not to be noted at all for its lyrics (which mostly revolve around failed relationships and the women who brought forth the anger in the first place) for they are expendably dispensed to us; I must then look to the music itself if this work is to redeem itself at all.

And yeah, they're loud, they're fast, and they're even hellish to the ear at times. That's their purpose: just to possess a heavy, undiluted sound. Their goals have been met, although to counter this fact, there doesn't seem to be extensive artistic complexity that can be orally exposed upon this album. While they've been lauded by their fans for their labyrinthine guitar and off-beat drum composition style, such things are clearly not apparent to me here. It's pretty much just incessant high-volume rocking, and that's about it. Occasionally, you'll hear something a little out of the ordinary, but don't attain this album expecting amazing things to come. Instead, expect a guy to yell at you for something you didn't do (or likely did not do).

The majority of the songs are commonly intertwined: loud warped-tone guitar, beat the snare 'til there's a hole in it, Bannon screams at you like he's trapped in a straightjacket and is trying to break out of a mental institution by creating a large hole in the wall with his overly boisterous shouting. That doesn't work, by the way. An exception to this can be found in the introduction to The Lowest Common Denominator, which starts out rather calmingly, even though it ends up sounding extremely demented and includes a very irritating beep/scrape/"dear goodness the heart monitor is on the fritz"-style noise. Turn it OFF. Ah, and here's another fun fact about "The Lowest Common Denominator": this is track 5 out of 12! 5/12? You can't reduce that! The other exception lies in Two Cents, which not only is an unusually calm track on this album, but also features Jacob Bannon actually SINGING! That's amazing -- I didn't know he could pull that off! Granted, he's still difficult to understand, but at least my ears can make a temporary pit stop for some cola and a nap until the gruff phoenix of rock rises again in the next song. And it does. How predictable was that?

On the 2005 re-issue (which was actually reviewed here), we get not only a slick remastering job, but also a bonus demo track, entitled Bitter and Then Some. After listening to it, I had to question whether the lead singer had a severe cold or something! He seemed to be sneezing a fair bit... (Or maybe it's just me. Or maybe it's hay fever.) I designed another theory, in that he sounds as though he's crying in a toy store because his mom won't buy him the new Dragon Quest game. That would tick ME off, I know that!

In conclusion, I have come to note that this disc (and this may sound like an oxymoron) is both bland and overly grating at the same time. With a couple of exceptions in scattered places, this sounds more like Unhappy Hour in the nuthouse than a compilation of enjoyable music. While Miss Machine by Dillinger Escape Plan was somewhat listenable and ultimately musical enough to warrant a decent score, this is a lower-quality product, and one that I can only recommend if you truly enjoy suffering a little...


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