When it comes to post-hardcore music, very few bands fly the flag higher and prouder than Massachusetts, USA legends Converge. Their near 30 year legacy holds one of the most watertight discographies in the genre. The quartet are still raging, still experimenting and still at the forefront. It’s no surprise that legions of fans have gathered to get a glimpse of their high-energy live show at the 02 Ritz in Manchester tonight.
Opening the show are French sludgy hardcore outfit Fange, who themselves are building up a cult following. Their sound doesn’t quite translate to the big stage tonight, as they are the kind of band who are better suited to playing an intimate basement venue. Though their sound is a little muddy, with the intricacies of the guitar work feeling a bit lost, they still bring it as hard as they can, with a sprawling and sweaty performance. Their songs are played loose, with plenty of noisy dirges and bowel-crushing low end frequencies, with abrupt short blasts of hardcore spattered throughout. Vocalist Matthias Jungbluth dominates the stage with his deranged vocal performance, stomping and thrashing about. US hardcore crew Sect play things more straight up, but with a much more focused sound. Their performance is fast and full of energy as they rip through short hardcore tunes. Vocalist Chris Colohan brings a huge passion to his craft tonight, stopping between songs to give heartfelt talks about striving for equality and dealing with loss. Californian beatdown hardcore veterans Terror really fire things up a notch with their brash and chunky riffs. Terror’s approach to hardcore is beyond meat and potatoes, sounding like the punk equivalent of chugging down an entire tube of Pringles. Their songs may lack the subtlety and diversity of the other bands tonight, but they sure know how to rile up a crowd, commanding them into a fury of circle pits, slam dancing and beatdown thrashing.
Excitement brews as Converge take the stage, ripping straight into the chaos of ‘A Single Tear’. With such a strong discography full of gems, Converge always vary up their setlists, making them an exciting band to revisit. Whether they are drawing from their more recent melodic hardcore gems such as ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’, which entices a huge scream-along, or the rapid stop/start punch of ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’, they sit perfectly well with oldies, such as a very special re-imagining of ‘Forsaken’, from their 1996 breakthrough classic ‘Petitioning The Empty Sky’. Kurt Ballou’s wild guitar playing is sounding particularly sharp tonight and it’s great to see him and bassist Nate Newton adding in more backing screams and losing themselves. But it’s insanely talented drummer Ben Koller who is sounding the fiercest, driving the rest of the band as vocalist Jacob Bannon lets out his mostly indecipherable, yet immensely satisfying barks and grunts.
The set ends with a triple threat of songs from the legendary ‘You Fail Me’ album, driving more and more fans into the pit and crowd-surfing over the barriers. Surprisingly, though the album cover of their masterpiece album ‘Jane Doe’ acts as the bands stage banner, they only play one song from the album, and one of its shortest, with the ever so brief encore of mathcore favourite ‘Concubine’. Such is a testament to Converge’s legacy, that they don’t need to play the bangers in order to send a crowd into a frenzy, treating the die-hard fans to more of a deep cuts set with just as much vigour and intensity as ever.
Words by Chris “Frenchie” French.