When people talk about “heavy music” in a mainstream sense, they tend to have a blackout from the ’90s onwards. Not since Metallica’s genre and era-defining Black Album in 1991 have the heavier genres been as popular — not until a watered down version called nu-metal appeared half a decade later at least — but it was also a “passing of the torch” moment, as Nirvana’s Nevermind was only a month away from release.
It seems crazy to think that about in 2017, but Converge were just starting out during this monumental shift in alt-rock music. The core duo of Jacob Bannon (vocals) and Kurt Ballou (Guitar) started making music together in 1990 in Salem, Massachusetts (how appropriate) where the latter to this day runs his GodCity Recording Studio, just outside of Boston, the band’s eventual home. Post-Nevermind, the freaks got in, which while it had varying and wide-ranging results, did inject a shot in the arm to punk rock’s fledgling underground community. An entire network of genres and offshoots were born in the ‘90s due to the renewed interest, including several of what are now considered subgenres of rock — emo, post-hardcore and metalcore.
None of these are particularly useful genre tags, and for most of them, the bands associated almost always wish to disassociate themselves anyway. Converge, for instance, were beneficiaries of the supposed “metalcore” name that was thrown around — in Boston especially — with other notable names like Cave In and Isis also finding success in that niche. Even during their ‘90s material, Converge were a slippery beast, refusing to define themselves beyond the broad term of “punk,” and drawing from a range of influences from bands like Rites Of Spring and Antioch Arrow right through to Slayer.
It would take a full decade for Converge to fully form into the band we know now featuring bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller and really achieve their full potential, ironically around the same time that nu-metal was beginning to peter out. With the arrival of Jane Doe on September 4, 2001, Converge announced themselves with all the nervous energy that the tragic event of 9/11 in American exactly one week later would realize.
By the time of their follow-up, 2004’s You Fail Me, the band had asserted themselves as the pioneers of the genre we know them for today. In the ensuing years, they have only solidified that position with three great-to-excellent ranging records, as they consistently try to keep their by now well-defined sound fresh, never relinquishing their beating-heart-covered-in-nails sound. There aren’t many bands out their who have managed to consistently put out such inventive and original music, especially in a genre that borrows a lot, for over 20 years. And yet, with their new album The Dusk In Us, out today, they have managed to better themselves once again.
Where so many bands would have given up long ago, Converge have proven once again why they are considered the gold standard, why their fans and website allude to those fans as a “cult,” and why they’re respected to the point that they transcend simple hardcore punk or metal and exist on the fringes of a wider consciousness within indie music. On The Dusk In Us, their ninth full-length, they have managed to push their extreme sound forward once again, while also remaining palatable and gesturing back toward their career as a whole up to now.