In 2012 Converge released their most recent full length, All We Love We Leave Behind. The album was a tremendous banger (for lack of a better word) from start to finish, highlighting all the greatest aspect of Converge’s sound in one gargantuan assault. It was a peak for the band, both emotionally and musically, and showed a more diverse and channelled Converge than ever previously heard before. Fans and critics alike praised the album, clamoring for more Converge, but were instead presented with about a billion re-releases. A growing curiosity over the future of new music began to arise in the face of a lack of news, and some (me) began to worry slightly about the future of the band.
However fans were soon presented with a glimmer of hope as, in face of the endless sea of re-releases, Converge frontman, artist, and Deathwish Inc. label co-owner Jacob Bannon announced that perhaps the reason was Converge was being so silent was not because they were about to break up but rather because he had been working on his solo album. He brought to our attention Wear Your Wounds, a project set at a much different pace than Converge, but similar to previous solo work he had done and collaborated on with other metal/hardcore heavy weights. And, while it may be no new Converge, it is inexplicably beautiful in its own way. It showcases Bannon’s unique and often poignant lyricism, as well as his affinity for dense atmospheres to match them.
It is precisely this intersection where Bannon finds the base from which Wear Your Wounds can build on, matching the often bleak tone of his lyrics with breadths of dark atmosphere that intertwine them and play off of them seamlessly. In a way they’re minimalist, allowing the scarcely sung (as well as often reverb-laden) vocals to be covered in a thick fog. This allows the beautiful poetry that are Jacob Bannon’s lyrics to show through while still providing them with a sort of foundational base that helps to add a certain poignancy that they would not have if they remained on their own. It is a delicate balance, but one that is struck with such a keen eye for effect that it’s hard to ignore the fine eye for detail that went into it.
This exact eye for detail is shown from the beginning as Bannon begins to weave his tale of despair and loss in the title track (and namesake for the project) “Wear Your Wounds”. It starts as a quiet soundscape, broken only by the occasional piano chord before Bannon’s vocals, accompanied by a massive wall of sound, kick in, adding a new layer of depth to the track. It is a kind of shoestring switch in dynamic and direction that Bannon utilizes often, and so effectively, that gives the record its depth. Speaking as a person who suffers from anxiety and depression, it is also reminiscent of the kind of detachment that often comes with the illness, complete with the often intense waves of emotion that follow.
Where Bannon finds his greatest strength is in his personal understanding—and handling—of this complex emotional spectrum. It is often hard for anyone who does not experience depressive thoughts to fully understand what it is like. With Wear Your Wounds, Bannon taps into that idea and chooses to present a firsthand case study. It is an introspective to his mind and especially how the disease effects it in a time of intense grief. It lends an amount of weight to the music that is also impossible to obtain anywhere else, grounding it in such real, human emotions that it almost provides a confusing contrast to the ethereal nature of the music that underlies it.
With Wear Your Wounds’s self titled debut, Bannon shows that he is not just a master of careful layering and deliberation in his visual art, but in his music as well. Every song is a carefully constructed soundscape, providing a look into all that Jacob Bannon has to feel and grieve over. In a way it is a self portrait, one that leaves the long time extreme music icon more naked and vulnerable than he has ever appeared to us before, showing us the hurt that can remain once the initial wave of anger and sadness has passed. All of this makes WYW a remarkably human, if not slightly uncomfortable, album that beautifully highlights the trials of not only grief but mental illness as well.
WYW is available on April 7 via Deathwish Inc., and can be purchased here.