Friday, 26 February 2016

Alphabetical Discovery - Week C, Day Seven: Converge

Converge belong to the true sect of metalcore with bands like Earth Crisis, Botch, Coalesce, Zao, The Chariot taking direct influence from the gritty violence of hardcore and punk and the complex heaviness of extreme metal. Chaotic, complex and most importantly heavy, Converge are definitely metal. There is more than a fair selection of completely overpowering grind, crust, black and thrash-metal moments - guitarist Kurt Ballou described their first album, 1994's Halo In A Haystack, as 'a bunch of hardcore kids playing leftover Slayer riffs' - to attract even the purist of extreme-metal fans.

I'd describe them as Pig Destroyers hyper-active, higher-pitched, supersonic twin (they released a split with Scott Hull’s Agoprahobic Nosebleed, incidentally). Converge's music from the early 1990's up to 2001's Jane Doe is a relentlessly sharp attack of shredding shrieks, intense tempo-changes and progressions, chaotic riffs and incredible drum work. Ben Koller's drumming is some of the best you'll hear, an unrelenting force of nature. Their third album, 1998’s When Forever Comes Crashing, is my particular favourite: a melting-pot of chaotic hardcore, mathcore, and thrash with slabs of industrial noise. 2001's Jane Doe is their pinnacle - a skin-shredding 45-minute assault that also experimented with suffocating industrial and doom-like sections. Converge are probably one of the most energetic and visceral bands, but their approach, particularly from Jane Doe onwards, is not purely an all-out assault - there are many moments and songs that morph and change from chaos to slow and sludgy, trance-inducing doom in the vein of Godflesh and more contemporary bands bands like Indian and Thou ('The Lowest Common Denominator' is a good example of this). There is a great diversity to their sound and pigeon-holing the band doesn’t do them justice.

I wouldn't say that black-metal is a direct influence on the band, or something that has been purposely utilised in their music, but their sound is an intensification of hardcore, punk and - to a certain extent - speed and thrash, four styles that were partly merged to form the evil atmospheric sounds of the first and second-wave black-metal bands. I'm sure that if Converge really wanted to be a black-metal band they'd be a very good one, but their sound is closer to the US hardcore-punk scene of the 80's and 90's.

So many bands get derivatively labelled and grouped as being one thing, although Converge have managed to break out of the derogative metalcore/mathcore rubbish heap. Often – in metal circles - people who speak of metalcore, or hardcore even, are shunned from the circle as lepers are from the populace. Perhaps such repulsion is partly to do with the fan base that these ‘genres’ attract, but there really are some great bands with great riffs and a great sound buried beneath watered-down bands like Killswitch Engage and Hatebreed. I’m going to stop here because I’m just ranting about things that have been said over and over again for years. Converge are good.

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