After giving You Fail Me a listen, the only thing I can even begin to contemplate is: "What the fuck happened here?"
I'm truly sorry to say that aside from calculating the distance from where I'm sitting to the Cosi two blocks away (I have a coupon for a free sandwich), this is the only thought that's running through my head at the moment. I'm thinking back to the work you did on 2001's Jane Doe and trying to find some sort of explanation for this record. You guys took intense, metallic hardcore to unprecedented heights. Jane Doe was an almost overwhelmingly cathartic record - like each note was wrenched from your hearts and souls. There was emotion, grit, and more importantly substance. Jane Doe was heavy in so many ways - musically, emotionally - but this new record that you've given me sounds...plodding, boring, homogeneous, and really tired.
I know there had to have been a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears put into that record and probably this one, too. But in all honesty, fellas, I'm not hearing any of these things when I put on You Fail Me. Each song seems to kind of lay there, stagnant. There's absolutely no emotional weight to any of these songs. To your credit, you've got some really cool - but also entirely vacuous - riffs on this one. Is it possible that I accidentally picked up a Hella record? *Checks cover* Nope. I'm still listening to the new Converge.
I'm sure these songs sound great live and they're a lot of fun to play, but I miss the depth, passion, risk-taking, and all the innumerable things that made Jane Doe such a fantastic record. I'm sorry, but a few plodding riffs, some random screeching, and a bit of spastic drumming does not make a record.
I'm not going to take the easy way out and say that the transition to Epitaph made you guys soulless corporate lackies (Equal Vision were and are just as willing to take a suckle of the commercial teat) but you have to give me some kind of explanation for this piece of shit, guys. The only theory I can muster is that since you purged yourselves of all your anguish on Jane Doe, you wanted to move in a fun, new direction. Sort of like Surfin' Safari, Converge-style. Is that a possibility?
I don't want to tarnish the great memories I have with Jane Doe, so I'm going to leave you with this: find some girl, get your hearts broken again, and please come back to us, Converge. Think of the children. I'm off to grab my free sandwich.
"Is You Fail Me better than Jane Doe?" Don't lie, that's what you're wondering and hoping this review will answer. So I'll do you a favor and answer your question from the get go: 25% yes and 75% no. You Fail Me brings forth twelve great tracks that work on their own but doesn't have the same cohesiveness of Jane Doe.
Being Converge's debut on Epitaph, you might expect You Fail Me to try nothing new and be an attempt to soak up some cash. This is definitely not the case. While they do go over some previously paved road, don't expect something generic. Unlike previous albums that dive into melee, the intro track, "First Light," eases the listener into what's to come. After being let off on the side of the road in a desert in the middle of nowhere by a sole softly weeping guitar with some delay effects, be prepared to spring forth. The next 35 minutes or so goes through many stages, like the whistle in Super Mario Bros 3, but there are 11 whistles here. One second, you'll be trying to stay afloat in a Florida-esque swamp with snakes and alligators mocking you ("You Fail Me"). The sound is thick, almost Southern sounding, and constantly rising towards a climax that never fully arrives. Some might say this is repetitive, others will enjoy Converge's ability to draw out a song while constantly adding in small features to keep things interesting. The next second, you'll be playing poker in a bar with a vulture on your shoulder as the skeleton of a card dealer pleads advice in your direction ("In Her Shadow"). The more whiskey shots you take the sharper the lights become and the louder the guitar strumming gets. Eventually you black out. The next song "Eagles Become Vultures" is pretty straight up for fans of brutal music. Although the breakdown is out there, the rest of the song continually beats at your face and doesn't ever let you open your eyes out of fear of what's to come.
Jakob Bannon sounds as pissed as ever, doing everything from his chilling/creepy singing to his balls-out-fucking-pissed-screaming-til-his-lungs-spew-forth. If you've never heard Converge before, prepare to have a new favorite singer. For those who don't care about the singing that much, musically there are moments to be blown away. Look no further than the fourth song, "Drop Out." The beginning of the song is good, but at 59 seconds the fun begins. All previous noise drowns out as one guitar strums single notes, creating an almost post-rock crescendo build up. Drums kick in and so do some of the most evil Bannon vocals I've heard. Queue insanity and chaos until everything cuts out for a dual between two guitars with sick ass delay effects. Gosh, delay effects are the coooooolest.
My major gripes with this album are some of the arrangements of tracks (see: "In Her Shadow" in the middle of the album) and the disappointment You Fail Me created as a follow up to Jane Doe. The reason You Fail Me is disappointing initially is that the intensity was dropped a few levels (which could be attributed to the mastering/recording). You Fail Me is more of a collection of great songs than a one piece of greatness.
Whether it's the singing along to "Last Light" (this is for the hearts...still...beating...beating...BEATING...BEEASDTTINGG!!!), the amazingness that is "Drop Out" (one of Converge's best songs EVER), or the general reminder that Converge are the kings of metalcore (if you want to call it that), this album will not disappoint. Just don't expect Jane Doe II. For the fans of Petitioning The Empty Sky who constantly complain Converge doesn't sound like that anymore, boo hoo.