Converge (band)

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Converge
Converge f4304335.jpg
Converge at Eurockéennes 2007. From left to right: Nate Newton, Jacob Bannon and Kurt Ballou.
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]

The early years, 90s albums and lineup changes (1990–99)[edit]

Converge was formed in the winter of 1990 by vocalist Jacob Bannon and guitarist Kurt Ballou, they were later joined by bassist Jeff Feinburg, and drummer Damon Bellorado. They started by playing covers of hardcore punk, punk rock and heavy metal songs. The band soon graduated to playing live performances in 1991, after recording some demos on a 4-track recorder.

In 1994 the band became a five piece when it recruited Aaron Dalbec as a second guitarist. Also in 1994 Converge released their debut album, Halo in a Haystack. The album was released through Earthmaker Records. The album was only released in one format, a vinyl record and was limited to 1000 copies. The album has not been reprinted since its release.[4] The record was funded by Bannon through money he saved up from working at a nursing home.[5]

In 1995 Converge released their first compilation album, Caring and Killing. The album featured tracks form the band's early work from the years 1991 to 1994. The album was originally released as a European exclusive through Lost & Found Records.[6] 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."

In 1996 Converge released a four song EP, Petitioning the Empty Sky. The EP was released through Ferret Music, it was one of the earliest releases through the at the time newly formed label. Later that same year the record was released with four new tracks added to it. Two years later, the record 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. Due to the addition of the new tracks fans and sources consider this to be Converge's second studio album, while the band considers this a compilation album because the album is a collection of songs recorded at different times.[7]

In early 1997 the band's original bassist, Jeff Feinburg left the band and was replaced with Stephen Brodsky, who is also known for his work in the band Cave In. Also in 1997 the band signed to Equal Vision Records.[8] On December 22, 1997 recording for the band's third studio album When Forever Comes Crashing began at Ballou's GodCity Studio and finished on January 3, 1998.[9] The album was produced by Steve Austin with input form Converge. On April 14, 1998 the album was released by Equal Vision. The album was the first and last to feature Brodsky as an official member of the band, he was replaced with Nate Newton, who joined the band as a part-time member because his main focus at the time was Jesuit. Jesuit later disbanded in 1999 allowing Newton to make Converge his main focus.

In early 1999 the band's original drummer Damon Bellorado left the band and was quickly replaced with John DiGiorgio,[10] who also left the band in 1999. Ben Koller joined Converge in late 1999, replacing DiGiorgio.[10] Familiar with his work in previous bands, Ballou selected Koller to temporarily fill-in while Converge searched for a more permanent replacement for the recently departed Damon Bellorado. After working well with the band during some local shows in Boston, Converge made him an official member.[11][12] Newton and Koller remain in the band to this day.

Jane Doe (2000–03)[edit]

In mid-2000 Converge self-released a three track record titled Jane Doe Demos.[6] The record was released at Converge's 2000 tour and were limited to 100 copies.[citation needed] The CDs contained unreleased demo versions of "Bitter & Then Some" and "Thaw" from their upcoming album Jane Doe as well as a cover of "Whatever I Do" originally by Negative Approach. The demo version of "Thaw" was also released on Converge's split album with Hellchild, Deeper the Wound before Jane Doe was released.

Recording for the band's fourth studio album, Jane Doe was mostly done at Q Division, next door to James Taylor's recording session. The album was released on September 4, 2001. Jane Doe was met with immediate critical acclaim, with critics praising its poetic lyrics, dynamic range, ferocity and production.[13][14][15] 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. The cover art has become an icon of Converge, the artwork was designed by Bannon. It is the band's first album to feature Newton and Koller, and the last to feature Dalbec, who was asked to leave the band due to his devotion to his at the time side-project Bane. Bannon has described this lineup of Converge as the definitive lineup and stated that the band likely wouldn't continue if it were to change. In 2002 a music video was released for the track/tracks "Concubine/Fault and Fracture" from the album Jane Doe, the music video was directed by Zach Merck.[8] The video was filmed on location in Los Angeles in September. Over a three-day period, longtime friend of the band, Zachary Merck was responsible for bringing Converge's conceptual vision to life. The band stated on their website that "Although it's always difficult to hand over creative control of a project, we can safely say [Zachary Merck] did a commendable job on the project" and Converge also gave special thanks to Ashley for "sitting in a bathtub of blood for over two hours".[8]

Converge's first in tour in support of Jane Doe was in September, 2001 with Drowningman and Playing Enemy.[16] Drowningman later dropped out of the tour to work on a new album.[17]

On January 28, 2003 Converge released their second compilation album, Unloved and Weeded Out. The album was originally released as a three track EP in 1995.[7] 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.

On February 25, 2003 Converge released their first official DVD, The Long Road Home. The DVD is modeled after band home videos such as Metallica's Cliff Em' All release.[18] Deathwish Inc describes the DVD as a "two disc collection that is as energetic and exciting as the moments the release captures".[18] The DVD also comes with a bonus disk that included three full live sets from the band.

You Fail Me (2004–05)[edit]

In early 2004 the band announced that they have signed to Epitaph Records having previously being signed to Equal Vision Records. When asked about the switch to Epitaph Bannon stated “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.”[19]

Converge began writing You Fail Me after they recorded Jane Doe, they wrote on the road during sound checks of shows.[20] In an interview with Rocksound, Bannon was asked how the album sounded, he stated "It's darker, heavier, and harder then Jane Doe. At the same time the music is non-linear and very un-metal. There is a diverse approach to the instrumentation on the album as well. Giving us a larger musical dynamic than we've had before".[20] Recording for the album was started in March 2004 mainly at GodCity Studio, however additional recording took place at The Magpie Cage and Witch Doctor Studios. The album was mixed by Matt Ellard and Converge's own Kurt Ballou. The album was released on September 20, 2004 it is the band's first release on Epitaph Records and was also the band's first to chart commercially, reaching number 171 on the Billboard 200.[21] On February 14, 2005 a music video was released for the track "Eagles Become Vultures" from the album You Fail Me, the music video was directed by Zach Merck.[22]

Converge's first headlining tour in support of You Fail Me started in September 2004 with Cave In and Between the Buried and Me.[23] On this tour Converge sold copies of Bannon's side-project's album, Supermachiner Rise of the Great Machine. The release was limited to 50 copies.

In 2005 Epitaph reissued Petitioning the Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing; these reissues gave the album's 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 of Isis. Ballou stated in an interview he wanted to remix and remaster the albums because of the quality of Converge's recordings has improved so much that the original recordings of these two albums were "becoming distracting".[24]

No Heroes (2006–07)[edit]

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

In an interview with Lambgoat, Ballou was asked what the material that you're currently writing is like, he stated "I would say it's even less metal than and more punk than You Fail Me. Could I describe it as more jangley? Imagine that if You Fail Me was a Gibson, then this new album is a Fender. And Jane Doe is a B.C. Rich".[25] No Heroes was the first Converge album to be self-produced by Ballou with no input from other producers, at his own GodCity Studio.[26] On October 24, 2006 Converge released their sixth studio album No Heroes. Also on October 24, 2006 a music video was released for the title track of the album, the music video was directed by Ryan Zunkley.[27]

Converge's first headlining tour in support of No Heroes started in November 2006 with Some Girls, Modern Life Is War, Blacklisted, Kylesa and Gospel.[28]

Axe to Fall (2008–11)[edit]

In November 2008 Converge began writing Axe to Fall. Though most songs originated from a guitar or bass riff from Ballou or 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.[29] The album was self-produced by Ballou, at 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.[30] Converge took the parts they contributed to the project to create the foundation for what would become "Effigy", "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,[31] the video features stop motion animation influenced by horror films. On October 20, 2009 Converge released their seventh studio album Axe to Fall. On November 7, the "Axe to Fall" video debuted on MTV2's heavy metal music program, Headbangers Ball.[32]

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.[33] Converge's first headlining tour in support of the album started 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.[34] 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 web store and the final version was distributed to various vinyl retailers.[35][36]

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

On January 1, 2012 Converge announced that they had completed writing for their eighth studio album, All We Love We Leave Behind.[37][38] The following day, Ballou announced plans via his Facebook page to begin recording with the band in January. The album was self-produced by Ballou, at GodCity Studio. On August 28, 2012 a music video was released for the track "Aimless Arrow" from the upcoming album All We Love We Leave Behind, the music video was directed by Max Moore.[39] On October 3, 2012 the album was available to stream in its entirety on YouTube, a week before its official release.[40] The album was released on October 9, 2012. On April 17, 2014 another music video was released for the track/tracks "Precipice / All We Love We Leave Behind" from the album All We Love We Leave Behind, the music video was directed by Craig Murray.[41]

Converge's first headlining tour in support of All We Love We Leave Behind started in October 2012 with Torche, Kvelertak, Nails and Whips/Chains.[42]

On October 15, 2015 Deathwish's YouTube channel released a trailer for Converge's Blu-Ray set, Thousands of Miles Between Us. Almost over a month after the release of the trailer, on November 27, 2015 the Blu-Ray set was released.[43] 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.

On April 29, 2016 Converge announced plans to reissue the album You Fail Me (12 years after the original release), it was put up for per-order the same day.[44] On May 2, 2016 the title track (from the upcoming version of the album) was made available to stream on SoundCloud.[45] On June 17, 2016 Converge reissued the album under the name You Fail Me Redux through Epitaph/Deathwish. Ballou remixed the album and Alan Douches remaster it. The album was also repackaged by Bannon. Ballou explained in an interview with Noisey that after he recorded and mixed the album No Heroes he wanted to go back and remix You Fail Me, because he and the rest of the band were "never quite content with the original mix".[46][47]

Musical style[edit]

Converge's style is rooted in both hardcore punk and heavy metal.[48] It has been described as metalcore[49][50][51][52] and mathcore,[53][54][55][48][56] or simply as hardcore.[57][58][59] They are considered one of the earliest and most influential metalcore bands.[50][51] Their 2001 album Jane Doe, which has become their most acclaimed work[citation needed], 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."[60]

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".

Vocal style[edit]

In an interview, Bannon descried his interpretation of his own vocal style, "I'm a bit of a one-trick pony, because I'm a traditional abrasive vocalist, and there are only certain things I feel comfortable with. I try to stay within the limitations that I have physically. Like, I never wanna be one of those vocalists that auto-tune themselves to hell".[61]

Sammy O'Hagar of Metalsucks describes Bannon's vocals as a "pterodactyl-like shriek" and a "hellacious scream"[62] He goes on to say that Bannon's vocals "[are] as much a part of Converge’s uniqueness as is Ballou’s nimble riffing".[62]

Scott Butterworth of Noisey had this to say about Bannon's vocal style, "90 percent of the strange, guttural noises that emerge from singer/lyricist Jacob Bannon still sound more like primal war cries than actual human speech to me"[63] but follows it up to say "In a weird way, it almost doesn’t matter. The unrequited anguish, directionless frustration, and relentless self-flagellation that make Converge so cathartic are communicated clearly in the delivery alone. Rather than serving as the focal point of each song, Bannon’s vocals often function as just another sonic element—more percussive and tonal than lyrical—allowing listeners to develop an emotional understanding of the material even without a precise knowledge of the words".[63]

Influences[edit]

Converge's influences range from hardcore bands such as Black Flag[citation needed] and Born Against;[64] metal bands such as Black Sabbath,[citation needed] Godflesh,[64] Slayer,[65] Entombed,[64] Vio-lence, and Death Angel; and other metalcore bands such as Starkweather[64] and Rorschach.[64] Jacob Bannon has also discussed an appreciation for grindcore on Earache Records; post-hardcore on Dischord Records; crossover thrash bands such as the Accüsed[64] and Suicidal Tendencies; and post-punk bands such as Depeche Mode and the Cure (both of whom Converge have covered).[66]

GodCity Studio[edit]

Main article: GodCity Studio

In the late 1990s, Kurt Ballou was working as a biomedical engineer when his then project got cancelled. Instead of selecting a different position within the same company that he had worked with for six years, Ballou opted to receive a severance package which he used to build his own recording studio.[67] Established in 1998, GodCity Studio is located in Ballou's home state of Massachusetts. Ballou has produced (and co-produced) the majority of Converges albums at GodCity Studios.

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."[68] 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.[68][69] 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."[68]

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" from Axe to Fall, the latter of which were heavily reworked by members of Genghis Tron.[70] 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.[71] 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.[68] The positive collaborative experience of these sessions was partly responsible for the formation of Ben Koller's and Stephen Brodsky's band Mutoid Man in 2013.[72]

Blood Moon[edit]

In April 2016, all four members of Converge in addition to special guests Stephen Brodsky of Cave In, Steve Von Till of Neurosis, Chelsea Wolfe and Ben Chisholm also of Chelsea Wolfe collaborated under the name Blood Moon. Limited to four European performances, the collective performed "ambient/post-rock interpretations"[73] of various tracks from Converge's entire discography, particularly songs of their "lesser-heard and slower work."[74] 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."[73] 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."[74]

Other projects[edit]

From the years 1994 to 2000 vocalist Jacob Bannon played in the experimental rock/ambient music project, Supermachiner. In late 1999 Bannon formed the record label Deathwish Inc. From 2001 to the present Bannon started writing and recording solo material which would be later released under his own name and the alias Wear Your Wounds. From the years 2007 to 2011 Bannon played in the ambient band Irons.

In 1996 guitarist, Kurt Ballou played in the punk band The Huguenots. From the years 1996 to 1999 Ballou and Stephen Brodsky played in the rock band Kid Kilowatt. In 1998 Ballou established GodCity Studio. In 1999 Ballou and Ben Koller played in the punk rock band Blue/Green Heart.

From the years 1995 to 2016 former guitarist Aaron Dalbec and former drummer Damon Bellorado played in the hardcore punk band Bane (formally named Gateway).

From the years 1995 to 1999 bassist Nate Newton played in the hardcore punk band Jesuit. Jesuit reformed in 2011 for a one-off reunion. In 2000 Newton joined the sludge metal band Old Man Gloom. In 2004 Newton formed the metal band Doomriders. From the years 2013 to 2015 Newton played in the metal band Cavalera Conspiracy.

From the years 1997 to 2000 drummer Ben Koller played in the hardcore punk band Forcefedglass. In late 2005 Koller briefly played for Cave In. Koller is also rumored to be a member of the hardcore punk supergroup United Nations.[75] In 2007 Koller formed the psychedelic punk supergroup Acid Tiger. In 2009 Koller began playing in the hardcore punk band All Pigs Must Die. In 2012 Koller and Brodsky formed the hard rock band Mutoid Man. On July 30, 2015 Koller joined 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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