Converge (band)

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Converge
Highfield 2014 - Converge.jpg
Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon performing in Germany, 2014
Background information
Origin Salem, Massachusetts, United States
Genres
Years active 1990–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website www.convergecult.com
Members
Past members

Converge is an American metalcore band from Salem, Massachusetts. Formed in 1990, the group is composed of vocalist Jacob Bannon, guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller. Their style blends hardcore punk with heavy metal, and they are considered pioneers of both metalcore and its subgenre mathcore. According to AllMusic, Converge are "regarded as one of the most original and innovative bands to emerge from the punk underground".[1]

Converge have enjoyed a relatively high level of recognition. Their popularity began to rise with the release of breakthrough album, Jane Doe, which was number 1 on Sputnikmusic's "Top 100 Albums of the Decade".[2] During the recording of Jane Doe, longtime member Aaron Dalbec was asked to leave the group.[3] This reduced Converge to a four-piece line up, which has been intact to the present day. Converge's records have gradually become more elaborate and expensive to produce, This progression began with their move from a small independent label (Equal Vision Records) to a considerably larger one (Epitaph Records). Special releases have traditionally been handled by Bannon's record label, Deathwish Inc.

History[edit]

Early years and Halo in a Haystack (1990–1994)[edit]

Converge was formed in the winter of 1990 by Jacob Bannon and Kurt Ballou.[citation needed] They started by playing covers of hardcore punk, punk rock and heavy metal songs.[citation needed] The band soon graduated to playing live performances in 1991, after recording some demos on a 4-track recorder.[citation needed]

In 1994, Converge released their debut album Halo in a Haystack through Earthmaker Records. The record was funded by Jacob Bannon through money he saved up from working at a nursing home.[4] Only a 1000 copies of this record were made and the album has not been reprinted since,[5] however all the tracks on the albums with the exception of the 9th track "Exhale" can be found on later Converge releases such as 1997's Caring and Killing and 2002's Unloved & Weeded Out.

Caring and Killing, Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing (1995–1999)[edit]

In 1995, Converge released Caring and Killing, a compilation album that was originally released as a European exclusive through Lost & Found Records. However, Converge became dissatisfied with the way the label was handling the release and over charging fans for their hard to find older songs. The album was re-released through Hydra Head Records on November 17, 1997 in America to "make an overpriced release obsolete."[citation needed]

Petitioning the Empty Sky was originally recorded in October 1995 and released through Ferret Music in 1996 as a four track extended play, it was one of the earliest releases through the newly formed label. Later that same year the record was released again with four new songs added to it, three of which were recorded in February 1996. Two years later, the album was reissued through Converge's new label Equal Vision Records on January 20, 1998, this version contained the previous eight tracks as well as three newly added live tracks ("For You," "Homesong," and "Antithesis") which were recorded during a radio broadcast.

Converge began recording their third studio album When Forever Comes Crashing at GodCity Studio from December 22 through January 3, 1998.[6] It was released on April 14, 1998. Steve Austin of Today Is the Day, along with Converge, produced the album and also provided backup vocals on the track "The Lowest Common Denominator", the album also features backing vocals from a range of other artists.

At some point in 1999, Nate Newton joined the band as the new bassist.[7]

On November 23, 1999 Converge and Agoraphobic Nosebleed released a split album entitled The Poacher Diaries, it was released though Relapse Records.

During down time for Converge as they searched for a drummer, Jacob Bannon and Ryan Parker (Daltonic, Black Spot, The Jaded Salingers) began to record for their band/side-project Supermachiner, which was started in 1994 by the pair and brought back to life in the winter of 1998 after becoming inactive. The recording of the band's upcoming album took place in the winter of 1999, at GodCity Studio with Kurt Ballou. After the recording was complete, there was little/no time to carry on with the project due to Converge having found a new drummer (Ben Koller).[7] The band released their album entitled Rise of the Great Machine in 2000 through the Undecided label.[8]

In late 1999 Jacob Bannon and Tre McCarthy founded the independent record label Deathwish Inc.

Also in late 1999, Converge released Y2K, a limited 7" vinyl EP for their 1999 European tour. It contained three tracks, all of which were cover songs.

Jane Doe (2000–2003)[edit]

In mid-2000, Converge self-released a three track album titled Jane Doe Demos.[citation needed] The CDs were released at Converge's 2000 tour and were limited to 100 copies.[citation needed] The CDs contain unreleased demo versions of "Bitter & Then Some" (which could be later found on the 2005 reissue of When Forever Comes Crashing), "Thaw" (which could be later found on Deeper the Wound, however it is not titled as the demo version of the song on the release), and a cover of "Whatever I do" (originally by Negative Approach), however the cover song is not featured on the album Jane Doe. Recording for Jane Doe was mostly done at Q Division, next door to James Taylor's recording session, recordings for the album also took place at GodCity Studio and Fort Apache, the album was also mixed at both these locations.[9] On September 4, 2001, Converge released their fourth studio album Jane Doe. The album was met with immediate critical acclaim, with critics praising its poetic lyrics, dynamic range, ferocity and production.[10][11][12] The album was also a commercial success in comparison to Converge's previous outings, and both the band and the album have developed a cult following since its release.[citation needed] The cover art has become an icon of Converge, the artwork was designed by vocalist Jacob Bannon. It is the band's first album to feature Nate Newton and Ben Koller, and the last to feature Aaron Dalbec, who was asked to leave the band due to his devotion to his at the time side-project Bane. In 2002, a music video for the track/tracks "Concubine/Fault and Fracture" was released, this is Converge's first music video, it was directed by Zach Merck.[13]

On April 23, 2001, Converge and Japanese band Hellchild released a split album entitled Deeper the Wound, it was released though Deathwish. The album featured the track "Thaw" from Converge's upcoming album Jane Doe.

On January 28, 2003, Converge released Unloved and Weeded Out, their second compilation album (the first being Caring and Killing). Unloved and Weeded Out was originally released as a three track EP in 1995. The 2003 album version contains all three tracks from the 1995 EP but in total features 14 tracks, some of which were previously released rarities while others were previously unreleased, the majority of the unreleased tracks are demo versions of songs from When Forever Comes Crashing.

On February 25, 2003, Converge released The Long Road Home, which is the first official DVD release from Converge. The DVD is modeled after band home videos such as Metallica's "Cliff Em' All" release.[14] Deathwish describes the DVD as a two disc collection that is as energetic and exciting as the moments the release captures.[14] Also comes with a bonus disk that included three full live sets from the band.

You Fail Me (2004–2005)[edit]

The band signed to Epitaph Records in early 2004, having previously being signed to Equal Vision Records. Singer Jacob Bannon had this to say about the move; “We are confident as artists and genuinely happy about the move. We are part of a diverse, quality roster with Epitaph, rich in both history and integrity. We've struggled for years looking for a supportive label to call home and after a decade we have found it.”[15]

You Fail Me was recorded in 2004,[16] at GodCity studio (with the exception of the tracks "In Her Shadow" and "Hanging Moon" which were recorded in a different studio).[17] On September 20, 2004, Converge released their fifth studio album You Fail Me, it's the bands first release on Epitaph Records. The record was also the band's first to chart commercially, reaching number 171 on the Billboard 200.[18]

In 2005, Epitaph Records reissued Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing, these reissues gave the albums one new bonus track each, Petitioning the Empty Sky received an alternate version of the song "Love As Arson" and When Forever Comes Crashing received a demo version of the song "Bitter and Then Some". These reissues also came with new album artwork by Aaron Turner.

No Heroes (2006–2008)[edit]

In early July, 2006, Converge's official website announced the title of their upcoming album (No Heroes), as well as the meaning behind it;

No Heroes was the first Converge album to be self-produced by Kurt Ballou with no input from other producers, at his own GodCity Studio.[19] On October 24, 2006, Converge released their sixth studio album No Heroes. The album was given 8.1/10 by Brandon Stosuy of Pitchfork Media as he said "Conceptually reminiscent of the way Orthrelm's OV rocked socks within a tight framework, No Heroes is one of the year's most musically cohesive ways to keep pulses beating rapidly."[20] On December 5, 2006 a music video was released for the title track of the album, the video was directed by Ryan Zunkley.[21]

Also on July 25, 2006, Deathwish reissued Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing again, but this time as vinyl box set collection dubbed Petitioning Forever, the box set added no new tracks to either album, unlike previous reissues of the albums.[22]

On November 9, 2006 Converge began a US tour in support of No Heroes with Some Girls, Modern Life Is War, Blacklisted, Kylesa and Gospel.[23] After the US tour the band wanted focused on worldwide touring for the year after, citing places like Europe, Japan and Australia as targets.[24]

Axe to Fall (2009–2011)[edit]

Converge began writing Axe to Fall in November 2008. Though most songs originated from a guitar or bass riff from Kurt Ballou or Nate Newton, all members had equal input on the writing process, with each member proposing different songs. Following a short tour in March 2009 with Ceremony, Coliseum, Pulling Teeth, Rise and Fall, Converge entered the studio to begin recording in May 2009. During this short tour, the band debuted a few new songs live, and footage could be seen online.[25] The album was self-produced by Converge's guitar player, Kurt Ballou, in his own GodCity Studio. Though writing did not officially begin until November 2008, work on some songs from Axe to Fall began four to five years earlier. In 2004, Converge collaborated with Cave In and recorded some songs together. The material from these recording sessions, dubbed the "Verge In" sessions, was never released and the project later dissolved.[26] Converge took the parts they contributed to the project to create the foundation for what would become "Cruel Bloom" and "Wretched World". In August 2009, two months prior to the release of Axe to Fall, Converge made the opening track "Dark Horse" available for streaming and as a free download. The song was noted for being one of the few tracks lacking guest musicians, and was also met with a very positive reaction from reviewers. The title track, "Axe to Fall," was also made available for free download in September 2009. The entire album was available for streaming one week before the official release date on Converge's MySpace page. On October 14, 2009 a music video was released for the title track of the album, the music video was directed by Craig Murray,[27] the video features stop motion animation influenced by horror films. On October 20, 2009, Converge released their seventh studio album Axe to Fall. The album was very well-received, with Decibel Magazine hailing it as the band's best work since Jane Doe and scoring it 10/10.[28] Pitchfork gave the album a rating of 8.5/10, praising Converge as "this generation's Black Flag."[29] On November 7, the "Axe to Fall" video debuted on MTV2's heavy metal music program, Headbangers Ball.[30]

Converge's first tour in support of Axe to Fall was the Metalocalypse tour in late 2009 sponsored by Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Alongside High on Fire, Converge held an opening slot for co-headliners Mastodon and Dethklok.[31] Converge's first headlining tour in support of the album took place starting in April 2010, with Coalesce, Harvey Milk, Gaza, Lewd Acts and Black Breath. Converge began the European part of their world tour in July 2010 with Kylesa, Gaza and Kvelertak.[32] In July 2010 the band released a limited-edition 7-inch vinyl single, On My Shield. The single was released in three different colors, with each variety limited to 1,000 copies. One version was sold during Converge's 2010 European tours, one was sold through the band's Epitaph webstore and the final version was distributed to various vinyl retailers.[33][34]

In March, 2011 Jane Doe was inducted into the Rock Sound's Hall of Fame.[35]

All We Love We Leave Behind and You Fail Me Redux (2012–2016)[edit]

On January 1, 2012, Converge announced that they had completed writing for their eighth studio album,[36] titled All We Love We Leave Behind.[37] The following day, Kurt Ballou announced plans via his Facebook page to begin recording with the band in January 2012. On August 28, 2012, the band released a music video for the track "Aimless Arrow" off their upcoming album. On October 3, 2012 the album was available to stream in its entirety on YouTube, a week before it's official release.[38] The album was released on October 9, 2012 to widespread praise, currently holding an aggregate score of 88 on Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim."[39][40] Brandon Stosuy of Pitchfork Media rated the album a 8.6 (making it the highest rated Converge album on the website) and dubbed it "best new music", the only Converge album to be given that status.[41] On April 17, 2014, another music video was released for the album, "Precipice / All We Love We Leave Behind" which is two tracks from the album however the track "Precipice" acts as an intro to the track "All We Love We Leave Behind" which is why they are used as one for the video. The video utilizes stop-motion and hand-drawn animation techniques to convey the tragic tale of a doomed wanderer.[42] Due to the release of the video for "Precipice / All We Love We Leave Behind", All We Love We Leave Behind became the first album from the band to have more than one music video.

The band made an appearance at Los Angeles’ FYF Fest on September 1, 2012. Then after a short break the band began touring on October 12, 2012 the band toured the US with Torche, Kvelertak, Nails and Whips/Chains.[43]

On May 23, 2013, Converge released a digital EP titled Pound For Pound: The Wolverine Blues Sessions. The EP features renditions of "Wolverine Blues" originally written and performed by Entombed, presented as five different tracks.[44]

On October 15, 2015, Deathwish's YouTube channel released a trailer for Converge's upcoming Blu-Ray set, titled Thousands of Miles Between Us. Almost over a month after the release of the trailer, on November 27, 2015, the Blu-Ray set Thousands of Miles Between Us was released.[45] The set was described by Deathwish as the long awaited sequel to their landmark 2003 DVD release The Long Road Home. The footage ranges from a full 20 song Converge set to over 15 hours of live, rare, and previously unseen footage, which is claimed to span over a decade in the life of Converge.

Converge announced plans to reissue the album You Fail Me on April 29, 2016 (12 years after the original release), it was put up for per-order the same day.[46] On May 2, 2016, the title track (from the upcoming version of the album) was made available to stream on SoundCloud.[47] On June 17, 2016, Converge reissued the album You Fail Me under the name You Fail Me Redux through Epitaph/Deathwish. Guitarist Kurt Ballou remixed the album and Alan Douches remaster it. The album was also repackaged by vocalist/artist Jacob Bannon. Ballou explained in a interview with Noisey that after he recorded and mixed the album No Heroes (which was the first full length Converge album Ballou recorded and mixed) he thought that he would really like to go back and remix You Fail Me, because he and the rest of the band were "never quite content with the original mix".[48][49]

Musical style[edit]

Converge's style is rooted in both hardcore punk and heavy metal.[50] It has been described as metalcore[51][52][53][54] and mathcore,[55][56][57][50][58] or simply as hardcore.[59][60][61] They are considered one of the earliest and most influential metalcore bands.[52][53] Guitarist Kurt Ballou described Converge's first album Halo in a Haystack as "a bunch of hardcore kids playing leftover Slayer riffs."[citation needed] Their 2001 album Jane Doe, which has become their most acclaimed work, introduced an experimental approach and an emphasis on rhythmical complexity, which are the defining features of mathcore. However, vocalist Jacob Bannon stated: "I really don't know what mathcore is. Converge is an aggressive band. We have elements of hardcore, punk, and metal for sure. But I think trying to define our efforts and other bands with a generic subgenre name is counter productive. We all have something unique to offer and should be celebrated for those qualities rather than having them generalized for easy consumption."[62] Some of Converge's songs feature parts that lack their typical fast tempos and overall aggression; such songs include "Jane Doe", "Hell to Pay", "You Fail Me", "In Her Shadow", "Grim Heart/Black Rose", "Cruel Bloom", "Ten Cents", and "Wretched World".

Influences[edit]

Converge's influences range from hardcore bands such as Black Flag[citation needed] and Born Against;[63] metal bands such as Black Sabbath,[citation needed] Godflesh,[63] Slayer,[64] Entombed,[63] Vio-lence, and Death Angel; and other metalcore bands such as Starkweather[63] and Rorschach.[63] Jacob Bannon has also discussed an appreciation for grindcore on Earache Records; post-hardcore on Dischord Records; crossover thrash bands such as the Accüsed[63] and Suicidal Tendencies; and post-punk bands such as Depeche Mode and the Cure (both of whom Converge have covered).[65]

Collaborations[edit]

The "Verge-In" sessions[edit]

After touring together in 2004, every member of Cave In and Converge entered Kurt Ballou's GodCity studio to lay in the foundation for what was intended to become a full-length collaborative album between the two bands. Tentatively dubbed the "Verge-In" sessions (an amalgamation of both band's names), the project was described as sounding "like this freaky mix of Ride the Lightning-era Metallica meets Mars Volta meets the Allman Brothers."[66] Due to both groups growing busier with their primary bands while also citing creative differences and there being "too many cooks in the kitchen," the project eventually fizzled out.[66][67] Stephen Brodsky described the sessions as being "bigger project than anyone had anticipated taking on" and elaborated: "The idea was to put out some sort of release at some point. But as with anything that has too many cooks in the kitchen, the project got delayed, and certain people felt one way or another about the pieces we came up with, and in the end, there was a very small portion of material that everyone could agree on."[66]

Tracks from the abandoned Verge-In sessions were reworked and transformed years later into the Converge songs "Plagues" from No Heroes and "Effigy," "Cruel Bloom" and "Wretched World" — the latter of which was heavily reworked by members of Genghis Tron.[68] Jacob Bannon said he believes there are only two unused and half-finished tracks from these sessions that could end up being reworked into new Cave In songs down the road.[69] Brodsky said what became "Effigy" was some of the best material from the sessions and expressed interest in going back and finishing the remaining unreleased tracks at some point.[66] The positive collaborative experience of these sessions was partly responsible for the formation of Ben Koller and Stephen Brodsky's band Mutoid Man in 2013.[70]

Blood Moon[edit]

In April 2016, all four members of Converge in addition to special guests Stephen Brodsky (Cave In, Mutoid Man), Steve Von Till (Neurosis), Chelsea Wolfe and Ben Chisholm (Chelsea Wolfe) collaborated together under the name Blood Moon. Limited to four European performances, the collective performed "ambient/post-rock interpretations"[71] of various tracks from Converge's entire discography, particularly songs of their "lesser-heard and slower work."[72] In Kim Kelly of Noisey's review of Blood Moon's Roadburn Festival performance, she said: "I hadn't realized Converge's Jacob Bannon had such a powerful clean voice, or just how well it would mesh with Chelsea Wolfe's; I stood rooted to the spot for a good half hour if not more, totally sucked in by what was happening onstage. It was obvious that the musicians involved had put a lot of thought into what they were presenting up there."[71] In Tom Hartley of NME's review of their London performance, he said: "As one of only four European cities visited by Converge on this tour, it felt truly fortunate to witness such a unique show and once again reaffirmed they are crushingly brilliant with whatever they choose to do."[72]

Other projects[edit]

  • In 1994, vocalist Jacob Bannon and Ryan Parker (Daltonic, Black Spot, The Jaded Salingers) began a ambient music project titled Supermachiner. After picking back up the project in 1998 recording started to begin and guitarist Kurt Ballou joined in on the project and in 2000 the album Rise of the Great Machine was released through the Undecided label.
    • In 2008, Deathwish announced the release of Rust, a 30 track double CD that featured remastered versions of the Rise of the Great Machine tracks along with b-sides of forgotten songs and additional audio experiments.
  • After the release Rise of the Great Machine Bannon continued to write music that was sonically different than Converge, which was later released as solo martial many years later. The records have been released under his own name and the alias Wear Your Wounds.
  • From 2007-2011 Bannon participated in Irons, a musical collaboration, along side Dwid Hellion (Integrity) and visual artist Stephen Kasner.
  • In 1996 Ballou played guitar in The Huguenots a Boston based punk band.
    • On November 20, 2007, the band (who had long disbanded at this time) released a anthology of all the band's previous work. This release was simply named Discography.
  • In 1999, Ballou participated in Blue/Green Heart, a math rock trio whose members included Ben Koller who would later be the drummer for Converge. They released one EP entitled Self Esteem Through Modern Science.
  • Ballou also participated in the rock group Kid Kilowatt, the band was short lived and was only active together from the years 1996 to 1999 although an album, Guitar Method was released years later in 2004 that contained songs from that time. The bands members included Stephen Brodsky of Cave In among others.
  • In 1995 Former guitarist, Aaron Dalbec and former drummer Damon Bellorado created a side project called "Gateway", later renamed Bane.
  • From the years 1995 to 1999 bassist Nate Newton played in Jesuit with former Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Brian Benoit.
    • Jesuit announced their intent to reform for a few shows in 2011, and also release a collective anthology of the group's early releases which had all gone out of print. This release was simply named Discography and released through Magic Bullet Records in 2011.
  • Nate also plays guitar in Old Man Gloom and Doomriders.
  • Drummer Ben Koller, got his start in the punk and metal scene by playing drums for bands such as Forcefedglass.
  • In late 2005, Koller briefly drummed for Cave In.
  • In 2009 Koller played drums for United Nations for at least one performance.
  • In 2015 Koller replaced Dave Elitch in the metal supergroup Killer Be Killed.

Members[edit]

Timeline[edit]

Discography[edit]

For a more comprehensive list, see Converge discography.

References[edit]

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