There is all too often a short sighted perception of hardcore that it is a somewhat dead ended genre, a revolving loop of tedious chest beating and recycled ideas. For those of this opinion, Massachusetts pioneers Converge are the band to point to, their richly emotive and stridently creative strain of peerless fury being the very antithesis of club swinging stodge. With a dynamic understanding and a tangible, suffocating heaviness light-years beyond that of their contemporaries, or indeed any band before or since, their constant evolution and sonic vision has left them with a discography awash with genre defining high-points as they remain the very pinnacle of hardcore inventiveness.
Forming in 1990 as self confessed “hardcore kids with left over Slayer riffs”, performing covers and playing local shows quickly developed into an urge to create, their formative EPs, splits and debut full length ‘Halo In A Haystack‘ being released with little fanfare, although their spittle flecked punk contained more than a trace of the innovative powerhouses they would become. ‘Whenever Forever Comes Crashing‘ (1998), in itself a wide eyed technical maelstrom, brushed with greatness, but it was its 2001 successor which delivered the bands still unequaled game-changer.
‘Jane Doe‘ is routinely hailed by many as the hardcore record of a generation, its dissonant heart breaking violence and Jacob Bannon‘s performance espousing palpable levels of human angst. It was as poetic and artistic as had been seen from a genre usually steeped in tough guy machismo, and remains an untouchably anguished masterwork to this day.
The pitch black desperation of ‘You Fail Me‘ followed, as did the bands rigorous world wide touring schedule. Their devotion to the road clearly did little to disrupt their creative flow however, with ‘No Heroes‘ (2006) continuing the bands rich vein of form with a relentless, angular assault.
It was the stunning, progressively leaning genius of ‘Axe To Fall‘ however, which represented ‘Jane Doe‘s first genuine encounter for jewel in the career best crown. As structurally and dynamically multi-flavoured as it was, the record managed to remain as cohesive and brilliantly Converge as ever, metallic venom shining through with some brutal thrash tracks and even touches of expansive balladry utilizing all the bands fearsome arsenal of song writing tools.
2012 saw a sterling split with extreme metal legends Napalm Death, dropping a few months before their latest LP ‘All We Love We Leave Behind‘. Another glowing example of their evolving canon, the record met critical acclaim amid its fearless dynamism and unchecked aggression, the band striding yet further from any competitors still trailing in the dust. Throughout a myriad of side projects (Old Man Doom, Doomriders, United Nations, All Pigs Must Die et al) and super successful career branches (guitar player Kurt Ballou is a widely revered producer, Jacob Bannon founder/owner of the fantastic Deathwish Inc. label), Converge remain the envy of hardcore bands the globe over. Notwithstanding a live show and body of work unparallelled, this quartet of genre conquerors preserve the DIY attitude and underground ethics which they could long have abandoned. Converge deserve all the frothing plaudits which come their way.
Check out our playlist below, compiled with what we think are some of the best The Black Dahlia Murder tracks in the band’s catalogue, both for newcomers to the band and already firmly established fans.
Below is our choice of the most accessible Converge records. With such a choice of acclaimed, lauded, stylistically evolved music, it may be a tough choice to know where to begin. Leave it to us to pick the three essential LPs below.
Released: September 4th, 2001
A devastating proclamation of hardcore’s new beginning, ‘Jane Doe’ metamorphosed the scene for a new, creatively fertile era. Its overwhelming grief and seething hopelessness saw Converge come of age in startling fashion, from the feral blasting and thunderous breaks of opener ‘Concubine’, through to ‘Hell To Pays’ dewy eyed post-emo rumble and the blood thirsty barbarity of ‘Bitter And Then Some’, the record is quite simply an experience of breath taking intensity, and whether it is brief thrusts of rabid punk (‘Phoenix In Flames’) or quasi melodic surging (the 12 minute title track), ‘Jane Doe’s desolate sincerity and bug eyed delivery sees it endure as a critical milestone in the history of heavy music.
Best tracks: Concubine / Heaven In Her Arms / Jane Doe / Thaw
Released: September 21st, 2004
Always in pursuit of the fresh and the audacious, ‘You Fail Me’ represents an discernible shift into boundary vaulting claustrophobia and jet black darkness. There is certain restraint here, the scatter-shot pace tempered to a seismic low-end rumble (‘Black Cloud’), touches of vocal clarity and acoustic, Nick Cave-esque melancholy (‘In Her Shadow’) painting with new palettes of despair for Converge, but with no less remarkable results. The three song arch of ‘Drop Out, ‘Hope Street’ and ‘Heartless’ deliver that signature violence, yet it is ‘You Fail Me’s calculated approach to smouldering atmosphere and monolithic clout which makes it a thoroughly unique proposition. Bleak and beautiful.
Best tracks: In Her Blood / Eagles Become Vultures / Last Light / In Her Shadow
AXE TO FALL
Released: October 20th, 2009
Rounding off the decade with a nigh on career best, and undoubted modern classic, the sprawling technical hammer blows of ‘Axe To Fall’ underpin what is the most masterful songwriting performance from Converge to date. Opening with the staggering six string whirlwind of ‘Dark Horse’, there is a thick vein of metallic urgency throughout from the thrash pyrotechnics of ‘Cutter’ and ‘Reap What You Sow’s dizzying assault, with even faint glimpses of Swedish death metal tossed into the melting pot. The righteous, spittle flecked clamour does give way gradually however, ‘Worms Will Feed’ and its unraveling stomp dropping the pace somewhat and closer ‘Wishing Well’ all nuanced melodicisms, yet for the most part ‘Axe To Fall’ is built on a foundation of hair-raising cerebral savagery.
Best tracks: Dark Horse / Axe To Fall / Worms Will Feed / Dead Beat
Written by Tony Bliss