Originally written by Ramar Pittance
My introduction to Converge came pretty late in my evolution as a metal fan via a former roommate and current friend. There were two albums in his car’s CD changer at all times, Jane Doe and Petitioning the Empty Sky. Those are the only two albums we listened to for an entire semester. As a result, I can’t look at a ’93 Volkswagen Jetta without immediately being bombarded by the opening riff to “The Saddest Day.”
I suppose like most conventional metal fans, though, my introduction to Converge was not an entirely pleasant one. At the time I was mostly content to stick to the more traditional acts that I had cut my teeth on. For somebody whose musical world revolved around bands like In Flames and Metallica, the kind of shit that Converge was throwing at me was a little too petulant, a little too obtuse, and really a little too scary. Scary, because when I got right down to it, Converge was the best band I’d ever heard. Listening to them made it clear to me that all the time I’d spent before hearing them had been misspent. It was as if I was walking down the street with my wife, only to see the women of my dreams beckoning me on the other side of the road. My gut reaction was to close my eyes and grab my wife’s hand as I hard as I could.
I did eventually dive into Converge head first though, leaving most of what I had been accustomed to behind and getting a full appreciation for what this band was all about. All hyperbole aside, Converge was not the heaviest, most technical, or most innovative band to come out of the early East Coast metalcore scene. But, like all great bands, they managed to combine all those aforementioned qualities with a measure of personality and compositional prowess that simply added up to brilliant records.
Released in 1997, Petitioning the Empty Sky was Converge’s third and probably most accessible album. Opening with the one-two punch of “The Saddest Day” and “Forsaken,” these songs have always represented to me what early Slayer or Sepultura would have sounded like if either band had truly gone of the fucking deep end. At this point in their career the band was playing with a sort of cohesion that allowed them to bring every composition to the edge without losing control. Like a stunt-car driver who calmly brings his audience to the brink of trepidation with his every move, only to get out of the car, brush himself off, and assure them he was in control every step of the way.
“Albatross” and especially “Farewell Note to This City” display the band’s sophisticated sense of melody, with the latter building to an emotional climax so many of today’s scene-hoppers only wish they could emulate.
“Antithesis” and “Homesong,” the album’s proper closers, oscillate between droning hardcore, the type of which would later be found on Norma Jean’s Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child, and bloodshot, near-grind ferocity.
Of the two re-releases, Petitioning was probably the one in less dire need of a new mix. Regardless, the coat of polish applied by Kurt Ballou (The Hope Conspiracy, The Power and The Glory) and Alan Douches (Burnt By The Sun, Swarm of The Lotus) does well to present these songs in an even, spacious manner without stripping them of their visceral energy. The new packaging makes this a worthwhile endeavor for those who already own this album, with new artwork by frontman Jacob Bannon and Aaron Turner (Isis, Hydrahead).
If you’ve never heard Converge before, the rerelease of Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing are great opportunities to become initiated. With the current metalcore scene so short of breath and soft around the edges, it will be illuminating to hear what this genre sounded like when it was still svelt and punching in its prime. It’s also a great chance to peer into the past of a band that after 14 years still transcends its peers.