When Life Comes to Death, Young and in the Way's first record for Converge frontman Jacob Bannon's Deathwish Inc. imprint, tempers the band's deft mix of abrasive crust-punk and high-test black metal with moody atmospherics and confident production. It ain't at all a cheery record, all thanatologically obsessed nihilism splayed over taut and razor-sharp odes to negativity. "Fuck This Life" and "Final Dose" are feral sprints; "Be My Blood" and "We Are Nothing" are grinding sieges. Speed, rage and amp-melting distortion aren't new weapons for Young and in the Way, but here they're honed to an edge as lethal as the blade on the album cover.
But it's the more tacit moments that buttress the record's visceral power and mark the band's surprising emotional dynamics. The opening black metal ballast of "Self Inflicted" takes an abrupt turn into a repeated clean guitar figure that's spectral and hypnotically haunting. In the middle-eight respite from the sludgy slog of "Take My Hand," vocalist Kable Lyall's tortured screams ("Just leave / Please," Lyall trembles, as if begging to be left to the magnetic pull of death) are made all the more impassioned by slowly creeping minor-key post-metal. "Shadow of Murder," with its limping acoustic strums and elegiac string arrangements, offers a hazardous moment of tranquility before oceanic album closer "Embrace Extinction." The near-10-minute onslaught captures the band at its most malevolent, but also at its most muted. Through much of its run time, guitars churn and drums pound, but as the song drags on, its fervor ebbs, as if its life force were spilling out of open wounds and slashed veins. It fades out quietly, as if the echoes of its last breath were dissipating into the ether.
When Young and in the Way dropped two impressive LPs, I Am Not What I Am and V. Eternal Depression, in 2011, then played Raleigh's Hopscotch in 2012, the band seemed poised for a breakthrough into the upper echelon of gnarly American heavies. Years later, Young and in the Way seems like it might just deliver on that promise. The band plays The Milestone on June 7.