Coming off the back of their acclaimed 2012 album All We Love We Leave Behind, which featured highly on many Best Albums of 2012 lists, Converge descended on Melbourne and embarked on putting the venue through their paces in what was a frenetic and resolute performance.
It’s not often that you get a supergroup play support to a band such as Converge, but when your bass player is said supergroup’s guitarist, it makes perfect sense. Sludge metallers Old Man Gloom (Comprising of Converge’s Nate Newton on guitar and Isis frontman Aaron Turner on guitar and vocals, with Caleb Schofield and Santos Montano from Zozobra on Bass/Vocals and Drums respectively) provided a fitting introduction. Their apocalyptic style doom metal was graciously lapped up by the audience, with Turner’s demonic vocals seemingly bellowing from the depths of hell itself. Slower numbers that brood and build in volume and complexity were offset against some more full-blown metal, and when their allotted set was over, we’d watched an accomplished band that could have easily been the headliner.
It’s not a band that lends itself to beating around the bush. After a quick self-done sound check, Converge, led by vocalist Jacob Bannon, wasted no time in getting the show started, immediately setting a rapid pace on the Billboard stage, with an approach to their performance that could well be described as watching any other hard rock band in fast forward motion. With over two decades in the game, Converge have been mainstays in the hardcore punk and metal scene, and from the opening of Heartache, bodies in the mosh quickly became flying weapons, with stage diving quickly becoming the norm in Converge’s set. Their brand of complex post hardcore has won them plenty of fans, and continuing to make quality records 20 years after their inception is a big reason for that.
Newton could have been forgiven for being a little lacklustre after already tearing it up with Old Man Gloom for the previous 45 minutes, but not for a second did he appear to waver in the conditions. Songs off the new album were as convincing as their old material, with songs like Trespasses, All We Love We Leave Behind, and Empty on the Inside given thundering renditions, and with their Reign in Blood moment – 2001’s Jane Doe, seeing songs like The Broken Vow, Concubine and Bitter and Then Some worked in, it was a blistering set from go to whoa.
Their sound evolved on many levels, from the complex sounds of early Mastodon to the out and out riffraff of Suicidal Tendancies and Black Flag, and whilst their short, sharp and sweet attitude towards their songs doesn’t vary a great deal, the different techniques and influences throughout their career – and thus their set – saw them not just rip out hardcore punk by numbers time after time after time, but with their song selection, lots of the various layers of sound Converge have been known for were on display Friday night.
As Bannon introduced their final duo of songs, of First Light and Last Light, the impending finale saw the mosh clambering on top of each other to get their final chance at crowd surfing to the stage and launching themselves off, or to sing into the mic that Bannon so often offers the front rows. What can be said for sure, is that there wasn’t a forehead devoid of sweat within the room after the lights went out, and as the sweaty mess made their way onto Russell Street, the consensus was that what had been witnessed will be an early contender for heavy gig of the year. With the impending Soundwave sideshows, as well as other big-name hard-rock gigs already lined up for 2013, it’s facing some stiff competition, but Converge have certainly got 2013 off to a rip-roaring start.