This has got to be one of the year’s most highly anticipated split releases (if I need to introduce either of these two heavyweights to you, then you’re reading the wrong site), especially after Converge’s stunning split with fastcore champions Dropdead last year and Napalm’s triumphant return to form (aside from one or two slightly clumsy moments) with ‘Utilitarian’. These two bands may be firing on all cylinders at the moment, but does this release live up to the hype?
Converge waste no time at all in obliterating the listener’s senses with the furious ‘No Light Escapes’, a song that will be familiar to anyone who’s caught them live recently. It’s a powerful blast of the kind of chaotic hardcore that only Converge can really pull off, with a fist pumping middle section and a finish that swaggers like Keith Richards hopped up on speedballs and bath salts, all in the space of 50 seconds. In short, it’s totally fucking awesome! Before you’ve had a chance to catch your breath, the band race on, into their star-studded and much-hyped rendition of 'Wolverine Blues'. Given the amount of contemporary hardcore bands taking inspiration from the mighty Entombed at the moment, the fact that Converge have assembled Thomas Lindberg (At The Gates), Aaron Turner (Isis), Kevin Baker (All Pigs Must Die) and Brian Izzi (Trap Them) to cover the Swedish legends seems like a fitting and wholly appropriate tribute. It’s a pretty faithful cover, but Converge nevertheless manage to put their own stamp on this classic song, riding its meaty grooves with confidence and style. If you’re able to resist the urge to bang your head until your brain cells cry out for mercy, you can also have some fun playing ‘Spot The Vocalist’, with each guest musician taking turns to spit out the lyrics. There’s a real nice atmosphere here, like that time you invited all your mates round to cover a bunch of death metal classics in your garage. Fun vibes, and top riffs – always a recipe for success!
Any thoughts that Napalm Death may struggle to compete with this fine display are quickly annihilated, as the band fire into action with ‘Will By Mouth’, one of the most grinding tunes they’ve belted out in years. The song speeds ahead with a breakneck intensity and a genuine sense of righteous indignation, before concluding with a grotty punk-infused ending that would have Extreme Noise Terror fuming with jealousy. ‘No Impediment To Triumph (Bhopal)’ finds the band playing around with those industrial sounding, Godflesh-esque chord progressions they’ve been using sporadically for the last couple of years, but skewering them with bleak, angular twitches of aggression. The song twists and turns through quite a few turbulent different sections, and is probably one of the more successful of their recent melodic experiments, combining their well-documented Swans obsession with the same unbridled fury that initially made their name. Napalm’s contribution is nothing radically different from the material on their last few albums, but only the most hardened cynic would dismiss this as ‘Napalm-by-numbers’ – the band sound fresh, energised and gleefully destructive, with Barney’s vocals especially standing out as sounding particularly vicious, almost straining with sheer venom in places. My only slight gripe is that Shane’s thunderous bass doesn’t ring through quite as clearly as it has done on previous outings, but you’ll probably be grinding along too hard to notice.
So, to answer my initial question – yes, this absolutely does live up the hype. It may be short, but this is a textbook example of the phrase “all killer, no filler”, with both bands stepping up their game and delivering the goods in abundance. If you’re a fan of either of these bands, you’re probably already cranking this right now, but if not, then you certainly don’t want to miss out on this, a potent reminder of just how good both these acts really are.