Originally written by Erik Thomas
Before my various writing gigs, for many years I sat as a neutral observer to the metal scene, and to me, within the vast annals of the more extreme side of metal it struck me that two bands seemed immune from the critical stoning issued forth from fickle metal fans. Two bands seemed to be accepted within all levels of fans from death to grind, and both seemed to have never ending praise heaped upon them despite their slightly less extreme approaches. Those two bands were The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge.
Now, I eventually got curious and checked out The Dillinger Escape Plan and was suitably and understandably impressed by the landmark Calculating Infinity opus, and even their quirky yet consuming follow up, Miss Machine that seemed to impress a majority of fans. However, for no particular reason, I embarrassingly never got around to checking out Converge despite their apparent influence on the metalcore scene I enjoy today.
So when broached by their 4th album and never having heard the apparently lauded Jane Doe, Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing Down, I was slightly nervous at being a ‘Convergin’ and wondered if I would be swayed by their apparent legacy or indifferent to an aging, 14 year veteran of the scene. Well my initial reaction was admittedly, indifference, as You Fail Me never really sat with me well upon initial listens due to a biting, grating production and a lack of immediacy that didn’t resonate with my generally impatient listening style. However, I was determined to try and wean something from this ‘legendary’ act, and to my surprise the brilliance did in fact filter through my conscience and leave its indelible mark, as it did on the musical landscape.
Listening to Converge for the first time is kind of like watching loads of Science Fiction films and then watching Star Wars. You get a genuine sense of where all the knock offs got their sound from; Cave In, Uphill Battle, The Power & The Glory, Between the Buried and Me, Mastodon, even Pig Destroyer, as well as countless modern metalcore bands trace elements of their sound to the sound of Converge–grating Slayer-esque musings violently yet gracefully mixed with brain frying complexity and also veneered with a sullen, brooding intelligence and bitterness. As with DEP’s Miss Machine, I get the sense that You Fail Me is an important record for Converge, as (based on various research) it seems to be slightly more experimental and at times subdued. Whereas DEP introduced clean vocals and Bungle-esque histrionics, Converge seem to have injected their violent, cathartic sound with some intrinsic, introspective moments. From what I gather, drawn out, sullen tracks like “In Her Shadow” and the jagged, yet controlled pace of the title track are new to Converge’s previously continually chaotic sound. That’s not to say Converge are no longer the intense juggernauts they always have been, but rare, eloquent shifts in dynamics show Converge as wise musical veterans content now to pace themselves rather than exhaust themselves in the first lap. Still, absorbing the still skin grazing potency of tracks like the lunacy riddled “In Her Blood”, as well as short visceral bursts of “Hope Street”, “Eagles Become Vultures” and “Black Cloud” almost serve as a road map to the current trend of metalcore/chaoscore that’s flooded the scene as well as an undercurrent of classic punk rebelliousness. When swaying manically to the caustic yet addictive structures of “Drop Out”, you can’t help but succumb to the mix of lethal technicality that’s neither overbearing nor pompous but rather sneering and loathing, not to mention the psychotic, staccato strains that explode at 1:34.
I will admit though, in spite of the pivotal, influential nature of the music Converge convey and the often stunning display of musicianship on You Fail Me, I concede that Converge’s back catalogue isn’t one I will immediately seek out. The unsettling, nervous disposition of the angular music seems less refined than DEP, and ultimately tests my listening stamina and attention span-it seems less entrancing and hypnotic but rather overzealously discordant and as a result, blankets the talent in wreathes of acidic noise that truthfully became grating after extended listens. Honestly though, that appears to be the goal of this act; to sear your nerve endings and deaden your cerebellum by means of sonic cauterization, and for that I can show respect as the mission was well and truly accomplished.