With their most recent release, 2017’s The Dusk in Us, Converge once more showcase why they’ve endured as one of the most prominent acts in metal and hardcore territory.
Blending and bending genre conventions time and again, frequently pushing new boundaries of speed and heaviness, they’ve continuously proven approaching three decades of musical prowess has only served to further hone their skills, with no intentions of slowing down or falling back on anything too formulaic.
The Dusk in Us portrays new heights of music maturity, with front-mixed vocals that aim to be heard and even understood, and instrumentals that are both hectic and tightly refined.
The anticipation for their live show at the Bossanova Ballroom in Portland was impenetrable. The roster consisted of prime choices from the Deathwish label, founded and run by Converge frontman Jacob Bannon.
Hailing from Salt Lake City, openers Cult Leader (former Gaza alums) captivated the crowd with an aggressive, crushing set, bathed in a steady red light that set a fittingly brutal tone. This was my second experience seeing them in Portland, and their name certainly felt appropriate, witnessing the mass of fans packed into the sold-out venue early to catch the beginning of the show for a band that’s deserving of a cult-like following.
Sumac took over shortly after, serving up a heaping dose of shrill, sludgy doom metal.
Guitarist and frontman Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old Man Gloom) commandeered an all-out aural assault with grizzled growls, translucent guitars, the pulverizing bass riffs of Brian Cook (Russian Circles, Botch), and the controlled, sharp percussion of Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists).
The set was hypnotic in its weight, a presence that pinned audience members in place to take in the trio’s mastery.
By the time Converge took the stage, the crowd was frenzied, the excitement tantamount to what you’d expect from the reunion between long-lost friends after a full decade. Indeed, many in attendance were not witnessing the band for the first time (myself included, though the last, and first, time was some thirteen years ago). Immediately opening with “Reptilian,” the closer from their latest album, the band’s unrelenting energy and dexterity were immediately put on display, never faltering during the remainder of their 20 song set, accounting for an encore and the 7.5 minute title track that bisects The Dusk in Us (and in fact, fell right around the middle of the set).
Songs from the album were represented throughout (nine of the thirteen in total), while tracks taken from various points in the band’s discography were worked in throughout, spanning the formative years between Jane Doe, which was the beginning of the band’s ongoing four-member lineup, to 2012’s All We Love We Leave Behind.
Hearing such greats as “Dark Horse,” the consecutive pairing of “Heartache” and “Hellbound,” which open 2006’s No Heroes, and the Jane Doe-centric encore, a trilogy of “The Broken Vow,” “Bitter and Then Some,” and “Concubine,” adding less than five additional minutes to the set, led a noisy journey through the majority of Converge’s history as a band, with frequent revisits to the present.
“Wildlife,” among my favorite tracks from their newest release, wasn’t anywhere to be found, though “Trigger,” among the group’s most approachable tracks to date, followed the incredibly frenetic, empowering “Arkhipov Calm.”
Bannon barked his lyrics into the crowd with a deranged energy, occasionally shoving his microphone toward enthusiastic showgoers near the front of the crowd. He stalked the stage with a legitimately gleeful grin on his face between bellows, clearly enjoying himself during the performance.
The instrumental trinity of Kurt Balou’s relentless guitar aptitude, Nate Newton’s composed basslines, and Ben Koller’s drumwork was tight and focused. To see it all on display, after all these years, was truly spectacular.
This was, undoubtedly, a display of greatness forged through over a decade and a half of playing together in their current configuration.
This was the convergence of command and maturation in its most striking form.