Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ten Metal Bands to See Before You Die: Converge

How does any Converge show ever make it to tape?

There's something intangible at a Converge show that seems to drive people into a frenzy. That combination of "Concubine"--the opening jolt of the instant first riff, the kick of the rhythm section joining in and finally Jacob Bannon's banshee howl--has nearly destroyed every room I've seen it played in. It's almost like clockwork how readily Converge turns any club into chaos. Even as openers, with a semi-interested audience waiting to see Mastodon or Dethklok, Converge elicits delirium or silent awe within a few measures. One senses that they could provoke a mosh pit at the Pope's funeral.

Sometimes when I'm trying to talk people into seeing Converge with me, I tell them that it's as close as they'll ever get to seeing one of the great early hardcore bands, like Minor Threat, Black Flag or Hüsker Dü. Like their influences, there's an abundance of rage and pain in Converge's show. It's not a place where anyone should stay for too long, but it's a place where everyone needs to go sometimes. I don't know what these four massively-talented guys with DIY energy and chemistry are exorcizing when they perform, but I'm glad that someone does it.

Even so, comparing Converge to their hardcore forefathers doesn't seem sufficient. Which Our Band Could Be Your Life act ever played with the ferocity of Kurt Ballou or Ben Koller? When I get a chance to catch my breath, watching Converge reminds me of the black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Taking punk to a place where it hasn't been reoccupied by Hot Topic, where the riffs dive and soar, the lyrics hurt and the compositions shatter your ideas of what music can be. Taking metal to a place where even the Vice-reading hipsters who wouldn't even touch Iron Maiden for an ironic t-shirt can be moved. Taking its participants further than they might think they need to go, but leaving them in a better place.

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