Salem, MA hardcore titans Converge have done a lot of fairly monumental things as a band, not the least of which was writing and recording 2004’s You Fail Me. The album is one of the band’s finest (and the competition is fierce: spun Jane Doe lately?), the band fine-tuning their ability to hit frantic and metallic as well as atmospheric and for the heart. But if the listener cries, the sonics force their head down and drown them in their tears; if they remain dry-eyed, the songs just batter them and batter them and batter them until there are tears. Then they drown. That’s the kind of album it is, but the beauty of You Fail Me is that even though it takes the listener down through the depths of despair, there is always that energy, that hope, that excitement running through every note. All the misery in life is worth it, if for no other reason than to listen to this masterpiece yet one more time. Decibel‘s Andrew Bonazelli inducted the album into our Hall of Fame in our February 2016 issue (which you can purchase here), so the time is overdue to take a closer inspection of You Fail Me‘s tunes, from worst to best.

12. First Light

It’s barely a song, but this is one minute of distorted guitar played with way more feeling than one minute of distorted guitar has any right to be played. Sparse and open, setting a tone and mood, and actually having some kind of impact: this is how an intro should be.

11. Hope Street

“Hope Street” places low not because it’s not ruling—it is. It just has slightly less to hang on to than some of the other songs on the album. But it does have 1:07 of great speedy hardcore with a whiplash groove at the end that would make NYHC bands envious. This would easily be the best song on a lesser band’s album. But Converge are so good it’s at the bottom. Mental note: listen to You Fail Me more. This shit’s incredible.

10. Heartless

This song does have memorable moments, quick grooves, good dynamics, tons of great noisy feedback, and an exorcising vocal performance by the inimitable Jacob Bannon. Like “Hope Street,” I just gotta put something down lower here, and it doesn’t quite have the heft that some of the other songs on the album does. But that ending part totally nails it, hard. Every time I hear that bit, I go crazy. That’s metallic hardcore done right.

9. Death King

This one comes late in the album and is the victim of having to deal with listener burnout (the album is a brief 35 minutes, but even then, by the time the final three cuts roll around, you’re basically obliterated). It also struggles because it comes after the mighty “Eagles Become Vultures.” “Death King” is an awesome hardcore tune, but it just has too much working against it.

8. In Her Shadow

By now in the band’s career, a six-minute dirge driven by acoustic guitars surprised no one. Not because it was predictable, but because you knew Converge just weren’t messing around, and were ready to start taking bigger risks. It’s not perfect; I’m not anxiously awaiting an unplugged disc, but at this point in You Fail Me—after a first half of speed and then the doom-y title track—it made perfect sense. This song showed Converge have a lot more in them than just youthful anger.

7. Hanging Moon

The weirdest song on the album is also the last song on the album: suddenly, for the last two minutes of You Fail Me, Converge channel their inner DC-hardcore band, start getting influence from Swiz or Sweetbelly Freakdown or some shit, and get all sassy and frantic on us. Of course, because it’s Converge, it sounds amazing, and ends off the album with a fantastic question mark. We’d have it no other way.

6. In Her Blood

A great mixture of the slower, epic sludge the band was nailing down hard on this album and the faster hardcore they do better than anyone else, this late-album cut is a killer showcase of heavy riffs, all of which are complemented by a smashing and crashing drum performance (well, this whole album is an amazing smashing and crashing drum performance), and when there’s a breathing-room breakdown mid-song, it creates an incredible, hesitant, restrained vibe that slowly comes unravelled in a very satisfying way.

5. Drop Out

Between that killer guitar part about a minute in and the wild build and release at mid-point, “Drop Out” is one of those songs that is just pure You Fail Me. Plus, I always loved the sudden ending that bursts right into the next song, “Hope Street.” Incredible stuff, so much going on here delivered in a deceptively concise package. I love “Drop Out,” and you should too.

4. Eagles Become Vultures

Partly for that drum-fill intro, partly for the galloping hardcore that follows, and partly for the intense shock this one gives every single time after the album’s duo of midpoint songs that go slow like sludge then even slower, “Eagles Become Vultures” is Converge’s best “wake up!” song to date. The sludge bit in the bottom third makes it all the better.

3. You Fail Me

No one does the “mid-album Converge crawl” song better than Converge themselves, and this is one of their best: after six absolutely frantic, rewarding, incredible blasts of fast, short, metallic hardcore the band takes things to a Neurosis tempo and hits the listener hard with repetition. It’s perfect after the album’s first half, and sets the tone for a slightly less fast-fast-fast second half. This song, man, it just goes on and on and on, and it’s the same thing over and over and over, and it works, works, works.

2. Black Cloud

A nod to the band’s hardcore roots, the relatively simplistic “Black Cloud,” especially come chanting chorus time, is a treat on this most chaotic of records. Smartly placed at track three, the speedy, straight-ahead, feedback-laced (seriously, the feedback at 1:21 is some of my favourite ever) tune is cathartic and a great reminder of how good metallic hardcore can be when it’s brainy and more hardcore than metallic.

1. Last Light

The first song proper on the album, “Last Light” starts off with Converge building tension in that most noisy and Convergian of ways, with drummer Ben Koller pounding away at what is basically one long fill for much of the song, and the rest of the band toying with the listener: just when things are set to explode, they pull back. The release is slow, and when it happens in the song’s last minute no feelings are spared. And that ending riff, with the feedback? It just might be Converge’s finest moment.

Order the 12″ LP version of the remixed You Fail Me Redux here.