Converge: definitely not stadium rock

Converge lay the London Koko to waste, we send Metal Hammer Podcast host Steve Hill to see it all happen. He came back in one piece and sent us this review….

Even Nostradamus could never have predicted a band with such a fiercely independent spirit, so used to the grim, glamour-less grind of punk rock touring, raised on DIY Hardcore ethics and tiny basement shows in vile, crust filled clubs as Converge would ever sell out a pristine, vaudeville music hall like Camden’s Koko. That they have is a testament to a constant commitment to making their thrilling and visceral music so difficult to ignore.

First though Storm Of Light wow the early birds with an assault on the senses, both visually and aurally. A huge screen at the back of the stage dwarfs them and fills the venue with dizzying Technicolor images to accompany their sludgy post-rock. They take all the bits that you love from The Melvins, Mastodon, Today Is The Day and Neurosis and bang it out with eye-ball popping intensity. Well worth checking out.

Touche Amore receive a welcome that would befit the headline band and do an admiral job of warming up the crowd for what is to come, but they lack the depth and weight of SOL and seem fairly lightweight in comparison. Not that there is anything wrong with any of the set per-se; all the elements are in place, it’s just that it seems a bit anaemic. Bands like Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere perfected this style of super intense Melodic Hardcore over a decade ago and Touche Amore strain for, but never quite reach, their standard. That said, the crowd go nuts and they leave to a deafening cheer. So they’re obviously doing something right.

You could count on no fingers the things that Converge have done wrong in their career. The most original, surprising and consistent band to emerge from the hardcore scene in the last twenty years, possibly ever, are on supreme form tonight. Despite the grandiose surroundings, Jacob Bannon and Co wander on and plug in as if it’s just another day in the rehearsal room and plough straight into a teeth rattling opening double of Concubine and Dead Horse. When this band are in full flow it is quite something to behold, undoubtedly punk but far more spiteful and intense than any Green Day or Clash clone could ever dream of. Whether it’s the slower, more brooding numbers like Worms Will Feed or their thrashier, more brutal cuts such as Hellbound, the quality never drops and it rapidly becomes clear that Converge have a back catalogue to rival almost any scene veterans you would care to mention. The standard of musicianship is quite something, too – not something you would usually associate with punk pock – in particular drummer Ben Koller, who puts in a powerhouse performance of brute force and dexterity, but also from Nate Newton’s rumbling low-end bass and Kurt Ballou’s shredding, screaming guitar. They leave for the first time with an extended and savage version of You Fail Me, which would be enough to satisfy most people.

That they then return and close the night with an incredible rendition of Last Light that is so heavy, so powerful and so dizzying that it terrifies even the most rabid fan and then walk off as if nothing has even happened is all the evidence you need to know Converge are a genuinely life-changing force of nature. Twenty years into their career they are peerless. It may be a surprise to see them become as big as they have but, good god, what a lovely surprise it is. Next time they come back you really should be there, be it smelly club or gleaming arena, it will be fucking epic. Quite frankly you don’t need to be Nostradamus to predict that.

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