Originally written by Nin Chan
This is going to be a hard review for me to write, largely because Converge is a band that has meant very much to me over the past few years. While I will endeavor to censure myself and my overwhelming personal affinity for the band, I am more than certain that this Boston outfit has assumed a similar significance in many readers’ lives. As an impetuous young teenager ravenous for the latest musical fix, much of my musical preferences were derived from my older neighbor’s record collection, one which featured such transcendental nuggets as Angel Witch, Nuclear Assault and Autopsy. Having recently picked up on a burgeoning sound he dubbed “noise core” (a rather pointless tag that still feels frivolous to me), he proceeded to shove a handful of dubs into my sweaty palms, on which were marked, in messily scrawled Sharpie- Deadguy- Fixations On A Co-Worker, Botch- American Nervoso, Kiss It Goodbye- She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not and Converge- Petitioning The Empty Sky.
In retrospect, my teenage years were pretty pedestrian. I went through the requisite drugs, bad decisions, episodes of heartbreak, bouts of alcohol poisoning, etcetera. Through all my most desperate and anguished moments, many were spent with Petitioning The Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing, two records that crystallized alienation and torment into whirlwind blasts of auditory violence. Seven years later, I have seen the once fertile “metalcore’’ terrain degenerate into a drab terrain populated with recycled Scandinavian riffage, which is an unfortunate circumstance that becomes infinitely more obvious when one approaches the irrepressible vitality and incontestable relevance of the first two Converge records, now reissued through the good folks at Equal Vision Records.
Any Converge fan is already aware of the absolutely abysmal production values of the original When Forever Comes Crashing. While much of the material on offer was far more ambitious and arguably more sophisticated than the more straightforward Petitioning The Empty Sky, the murk and mire of the mix clearly rendered it the inferior record, severely undermining the fearsome visceral depth of the record. It should, then, please you to no end that the new mix is everything you could hope for in a remastering job- not since The Stooges Raw Power has there been such an urgent need for a remastering job, and not since said Stooges record has there been such a dramatic effect on the record! This is When Forever Comes Crashing in a wholly separate incarnation, warm and intimate where the original was harsh and unwelcoming, coherent and spacious, giving each ornate subtlety the sonic breadth to explain itself. This is the sound that the original so SORELY needed, granting the record the foundational canvas to express its themes of anguish, loss and regret.
If, for some baffling reason, you have yet to hear Converge, imagine the nude aggression and unapologetic angst of Black Flag, the leftfield, off-center discordance of Today Is The Day, the heavy-as-all-hell-but-not-metal aesthetics of Deadguy and Kiss It Goodbye, the intense discipline, the impeccable balance between precision and unbridled chaos that Botch stood for. If you are unfamiliar with the aforementioned punk-oriented bands, a Converge record is more accurately expressed as an auditory journey through the most cavernous valleys of your life, a play-by-play re-enactment of each excruciating regret and fear you’ve ever had. To experience Converge is to confront your demons.
Each and every track gets a new lease of life, glowing with even more brilliant urgency than ever before. “My Unsaid Everything” is still the soundtrack to a mass knife fight, an apocalyptic mass of discordance and heaving, relentless rhythms. The track, as with most Converge tracks, makes very little sense from a rational perspective, each musician appearing to embark on his own tangent while Jacob Bannon throws a neurotic fit in the background, but the visceral impact the track leaves is indelible. “In Harm’s Way” opens with a lethargic bassline, sporadic, rambling percussion and whispered vocals, gaining momentum until it escalates into a flurry of stuttered riffing, dissonant leads, demonic howling, breakbeat samples and tense drumming. It is bloody brilliant.
How about “Lowest Common Denominator”, which introduces a sparse, sinister guitar line that cues in a monumental sludge rhythm, a plodding behemoth of filthy, gnarly, lumbering malice that gains much nefariousness from the improved, beefy low-end of the record? Nowhere on the record is the improvement more apparent than “Lowest Common Denominator”, where the bareness of the track allows the difference to really shine through – this CANNOT be the same song! The clarity of the mix gives the acoustic intro a FAR more spectral and haunting feel, each pluck exerting more of an eerie presence. The bass drum no longer sounds as muted, infusing the track with the ritualistic, infernal sprawl it deserves, while the improved guitar sound allows the pummeling chords a greater musicality.
This is the greatest improvement that the new sound has had on the record – without tampering with the aesthetic of each track, the remastering unearths musical nuances that were submerged in the mud of the original – the crash, ride and hi-hat are clearly distinguished, the chords are recognizable instead of being palm-muted hunks of rhythmic sound, the bass gains greater separation from the bass drum while the bass drum gains far more richness and fullness. At the same time, the grime that crusted the original has not been scrubbed off – the bass is disgusting in trademark Converge fashion, the vocals are just as otherworldly, but the parts that form the Converge compound are now discernible and the dimension that each member brings to the equation is obvious. While the original forced you to appreciate the record as a whole, this remaster presents an alternative – you can listen to the record as a scathing, singular barrage of sound, or you can dissect the merits of each individual instrument.
Of all the brilliant records that Converge have etched their name on, When Forever Comes Crashing has always been a bizarre anomaly. While it contains some of the most nakedly earnest tracks that Converge have written to date, the mix is simply antiethical to the record’s aspirations, alienating the listener instead of inviting one into the alienation of Bannon’s embattled psyche. The vocals were suffocated by the claustrophobic walls of noise, the cymbals were completely drowned, the low-end was virtually indistinguishable from the highs, the whole sound a uniform slab of inseparable unintelligibility. Sure, it sounded chaotic, but it would have worked better on a Today Is The Day or Pig Destroyer recording, where an intentionally murky mix would be more aligned with their nihilistic outlook. Converge, conversely, are a far more personal proposition – read the lyrics, and you’ll sense that Bannon, in his disarming vulnerability, wants you to drink from his chalice of sorrow and join him in his moment of catharsis.
Even if you have little to no interest in modern hardcore (like me), you need to buy this, and with Aaron Turner’s new artwork/the extensive liner notes, it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Get ready to waltz with your demons again!