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It seems there was a period from the early to mid-'00s where Morbid Angel clones flew fast and thick in the death metal scene- and impressively enough, most were pretty fucking good. Convergence From Within was one such artist, located in the perpetually incestuous scene of Huntsville, Alabama (host to bands like Blood Stained Dusk and Quinta Essentia,) who attempted to resurrect the fast, twisted, diabolical sound of Morbid Angel in the wake of 'Heretic' and its rather floppy arrival on the scene. 'Only the Strong' was the only proper full-length the band ever managed to turn out, a lean, sub-half hour beast that takes all the essential elements of Morbid Angel's vicious, oldschool sound and updates it just a bit for a circa-'04 audience. The effect is undeniable: this is definitely one of the best Morbid Angel clone albums out there, alongside luminaries like Throne of Nails' 'Acts of War' and other unknown releases in the same vein. It's unfortunate that these guys broke up- if this album suggests anything, it's that they could have had a long and fruitful life as a band.
Convergence From Within's sound and objective as a band is clear enough that the only real way to describe them is through combinations of various Morbid Angel releases. Specifically focusing on the fastest material by the band, 'Only the Strong' basically features the general melodic and structural style of 'Covenant' with the extra-fast and explosive feel of 'Formulas Fatal to the Flesh'- you can expect short, violent tracks with tons of discordant, dark tremolo riffs, blast beats, and somewhat hoarsely rasped/growled vocals. Every element of this album seems to have been specifically designed to mimic Morbid Angel's legendary sound, from the twisted, atonal riffing which darts around shadows of melody without succumbing to it, the blast'n'fill drumming style absolutely cribbed from Sandoval, and even the wild, spiraling solos, which while not quite as Kerry King-inspired as Azagthoth's, are certainly crazed enough to appeal to anyone with 'Blessed Are the Sick' on gatefold vinyl.
The only real hints that other influences are present are scattered and subtle. The bass playing is more ostentatious and technical than anything in Morbid Angel's catalog- it regularly peeks out of the haze of rich, earthen guitars for darting fills, and tends to play around in the melodic spectrum more than Vincent or Tucker ever allowed. In addition, the occasional intrusion of NYDM will show up in the form of midpaced passages with surprisingly hardcore-influenced drumming, like breakdowns with crazed, arrhythmic Morbid Angel riffs over them- they're not too common but they're very distinctive when they occur. Apart from the final track, though, which makes some weird (and mostly inadvisable) concessions to thrash and melody, 'Only the Strong' is a very clear tribute album to the Tampa gods.
I guess it might be somewhat difficult to wholeheartedly recommend an album which really isn't much more than a half-hour tribute to another band, but frankly, Convergence From Within pull it off so well I can't be bothered to question their originality. This is the peak of what I've heard from the Morbid Angel fanclub crowd- if I close my eyes, I genuinely think I'm listening to a forgotten b-side from 'Covenant.' In the wake of Morbid Angel's rather questionable musical moves as of late, it's certainly a very welcome return to tradition.
Convergence From Within play a style of technical death metal that's original and challenging. Imagine uniting Morbid Angel's aggression, Psycroptic's convolution and dissonance, and the fast-paced and unpredictable songwriting of Decrepit Birth's Diminishing Between Worlds. It comes across as a bit of a chaotic mess, but still capable of conveying coherent melodic themes (as opposed to, say, Brain Drill's soulless wankery).
The tracks are all short, featuring imaginative song structures bolstered by solid technique, with a lot of improvisational touches. The riffing, catchy in its own right, is laced with squeaky pinch harmonics, and the drum track is one wild fill after another. The vocals are nothing spectacular, more abrasive than brutal in style, but effective enough, yielding to the occasional bombastic guitar lead.
The mix lends a unique character to the band's sound. Rather than the scooped guitar and kick-drum-centric treatment ubiquitous in this style of metal, here the guitars are heavily distorted in the midrange, and the kick drum is moved to the background while and the snare is placed at the fore of the mix. It can really throw the listener off balance at first; but once you grow accustomed to it, it's quite a unique perspective and a refreshing departure from the norm.
"Awaken to the Eternal Black" is my favorite track, where syncopated riffing lays a groovy rhythmic foundation for a series of soaring leads.