Thrash Hits

November 10th, 2009

Bands of the Decade: Converge

Converge new promo photo 2009 Matt Miller Thrash Hits

Converge
Peak: 2001
Era: Jane Doe

What have Converge done in the 2000s?

While Converge had been around since the early 90s, it wasn’t until the genre-busting, nay genre-breaking Jane Doe (2001) that the Massachusetts four-piece shook the world of rock to its very foundations. Terrorizer Magazine recognized its greatness from the off, naming it their Album of the Year. To this day it remains not only the yardstick that every subsequent Converge album is judged against, but remains the standard that pretty much every hard-, math- and old-skool metalcore record feels the need to prove itself against.

With such a high watermark set so early in the decade, Converge’s subsequent releases were doomed to live it the shadow of Jane Doe. While both You Fail Me (2004) and No Heroes (2006) were well received, and are indeed better than most other records put out in their respective years of release, they were still lumbered with the crime of Not Being As Good As Jane Doe. Then in 2009 came Axe To Fall. While it’s still too early to judge the true impact of this new album – at the time of writing it’s only been out for two weeks -already fans and critics alike are starting to whisper that it’s almost as good – if not the equal of – Jane Doe. With Axe To Fall, Converge have stamped their authority at the end of the decade in the same manner Jane Doe did the start.

converge jane doe 2001 album cover artwork thrash hits

Why are Converge one of the most important rock acts of the past decade?

Heaviness, aggression, volume – these can be faked, mimicked and simulated. But Converge probably couldn’t fake a sickie from work. This is a band so raw they bleed; a band that burn so white-hot they hurt to look at. Converge exposed the chancers from the real deal; they separated the weekend hardcore kids from the true believers.

The fusing of hardcore mindsets with metal riffery, via melodically twisted grindcore breaks has been imitated and appropriated so much since that it’s almost hard now to judge the impact Converge had retrospectively. While early contemporaries, Botch, imploded to become one of those bands that lots of people namedrop but don’t actually listen to, and Dillinger Escape Plan’s rampant experimentalism has seen them constantly and consistently divide opinions among boths fans and critics alike, Converge have stood rigidly and resolutely as a near-primal force in extreme circles. Trends come and go; Converge endures.

Watch the video to ‘Fault And Fracture’ from Jane Doe by Converge

Laurent Barnard from Gallows says the following about one his favourite bands:

I remember the name Converge being thrown among other bands like Poison The Well, Sky Came Falling, Shai Hulud, Brothers Keeper and Morning Again, all in the late, late 90s. Obviously Jane Doe was their first big breakthrough record but previous to that my friend saw them play in the States and said it was the craziest show he’d ever been to. That’s pretty much what really turned me onto them. I think it’s just their totally aggressive style of playing that’s influenced us. Also their sound, it sounds so fucking nasty but in the best possible way. I really like stuff from No Heroes, especially the song with Jonah Jenkins on vocals – ‘Grim Heart/Black Rose’. It’s by no means an example of the Converge sound but at the same time is evidence that there is a strong melodic vibe within the band.

What is the legacy of Converge and Jane Doe?

Metalcore has naturally become increasingly diluted as the number of its practitioners has swelled, to the extent where the melody-dependant, clean-vocal preferences that characterize the genre today seem a world away from the fusion Converge helped pioneer. Converge took what bands like Earth Crisis started, and pushed it further, deeper, harder, faster. Converge used it to fuck everything and everyone in their way.

Converge’s prominence in the early years of mathcore has also given them another legacy for us to be thankful for. They took hardcore – a genre that’d previously been content to plough the same furrows till it hit bedrock – and helped instill it with a sense of experimentation. Suddenly it was possible for the aggression, the hate and spittle of hardcore to weld itself on anything. No hardcore act had spun genres on their axes like this since Black Flag released My War.

That Converge’s ongoing influence can be heard in everything from Killswitch Engage to Gallows, from Bring Me The Horizon to Meshuggah, is testament to the fact that while Converge might not have been the first to come up with these ideas, they certainly did it best.

What is next for Converge?

With their seventh studio album, Axe To Fall, still fresh in the minds of fans worldwide, Converge look set to spend much of 2010 on the road. Is it too much to ask that they bring the Mastodon/High on Fire/Dethklok package they’ve been taking round the States with them?

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Check out the rest of our End of the Decade coverage.

Has Jacob Bannon used you to crowdsurf? Was that you knocking yourself out in that moshpit in Manchester? Did Converge make you start a band? Tell us your memories of Converge below.

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