After decimating a trail of venues across the UK and Scotland, Converge’s All We Love We Leave Behind European Tour landed itself in Dublin’s the Button Factory to heat up a frosty Friday night in November. For this tour, Converge has assembled an intriguing and dynamic package; one that avoids the temptation to throw together four bands who all sound the same. Support comes in the form of The Secret’s nihilistic take on hardcore, Josh Graham’s post-metal project A Storm of Light, and post-hardcore proponents, Touché Amoré - three bands who are poles apart, but whose inclusion on this tour makes complete sense in the context of trying to provide a night of passionate music that ebbs and flows.
Riding high on a massive wave of critical acclaim off the back of their 8th studio release, All We Love We Leave Behind - a record that received a glowing 8/10 here at Popmatters - there is no better time to witness Converge live than now. Clearly the Converge faithful in Ireland sense this also, as the Button Factory, which holds a capacity of 1,000 persons, has sold out in the run up to tonight. Another reason for such ravenous ticket sales for this legendary hardcore band’s Dublin show could be down to Converge’s dedication to visit the “Emerald Isle” each time the band embark on a European jaunt - something that the majority of metal bands seem to forget.
Tonight’s opener, The Secret, is another band in support of a highly lauded and cripplingly intense record. Gifted with the unenviable task of warming up the somewhat sparse but ever-growing crowd, Italy’s nastiest four-piece hit the smoke engulfed stage and discharge a set of crusty hardcore tracks taken from Agnus Dei and Solve et Coagula. Vocalist Marco Coslovich, flanked by guitarist Michael Bertoldini and bassist Lorenzo Gulminelli, cuts an imposing figure centre-stage, bearing a striking resemblance to Gaahl (ex-Gorgoroth, God Seed) with the presence to match. Coslovich’s scalding screams battle against the buzzsaw grind of “Geometric Power” and “Antitalian”, and for the most part maintains strength and clarity, even if the sound desk and floor-boards are rattling during the grooves of “Vermin of Dust”.
Following the barbarous assault of The Secret, A Storm of Light take advantage of the increased crowd who has now gathered closer to the stage to observe the scenes of destruction and devastation depicted on the giant screen behind the band, courtesy of A Storm of Light’s leader and former visual artist for Neurosis, Josh Graham. Now that Graham has amicably ended his lengthy association with Neurosis, A Storm of Light is free to evade the all encompassing shadow perennially cast over the band. Tonight, matched by the harrowing visuals synonymous with Graham’s past live work, A Storm of Light’s post-metal plunder sounds much heavier than on record, with “Missing” and “Collapse” from As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us Over Silver Memories Fade confirming that this band has the songs to stand on its own.
Touché Amoré is the most interesting choice of support band on this tour. Like its peers in Defeater, Pianos Become the Teeth, and La Dispute, this band’s brand of post-hardcore drips with sincerity, even if it does sound somewhat lightweight when compared to The Secret and A Storm of Light. With vocalist Jeremy Bolm, Touché Amoré has a poetic soul that holds an awkward charm but leads a congregation of fans nestled in front of the stage with the passion of a preacher, as the rest of the band swing and bounce through their shape-shifting songs. Touché Amoré’s followers hang on every word screamed from Bolm’s lungs during a packed set which includes: “Home Away from Here”, “Suckerfish”, and thrilling new song from the forthcoming split with Pianos Become the Teeth—“Gravity Metaphorically”. The rest of the crowd respectfully nod in appreciation for the band’s efforts, yet appear surprised by the level of devotion afforded to this group of musicians on their first visit to our shores. Touché Amoré ends its set emphatically with “Honest Sleep”: the band stopping to allow their fans at the front to finish the song by screaming Bolm’s lyrics unaccompanied. It is a magical moment and it produces a ripple of warmth that spreads across the crowd - such is the impact of music that connects emotionally.
Converge is the epitome of a band who knows how to turn raw emotion into art. In fact, lyrically, Jeremy Bolm and Jacob Bannon exist as kindred spirits, in that both artists write in a way which connects with those who have spent the time to look behind the music. Obviously, there is a distinct difference musically, evident when Converge take to the stage and hurl three aural-bombs into the crowd in quick succession: “Concubine”, “Dark Horse” and “Heartache”. In terms of stage presence, Bannon displays the athleticism of a boxer at the height of his game, pacing back and forth while Nate Newton (bass) and Kurt Ballou (guitars) stand locked in place channelling the sheer power of “Aimless Arrow” and “Trespass”, giving the Irish fans their first opportunity to lose their minds to these highlights from All We Love We Leave Behind.
Tonight, Bannon sounds even more rabid than usual, especially when barking through the fury of Jane Doe’s “Bitter and Then Some” and sonic maelstrom that is “All We Love We Leave Behind”. After the low-slung, Southern twang of “Sadness Comes Home”, Bannon grabs a camera from a fan and takes pictures of drummer Ben Koller’s “guns”, after which he is met by a heckle from an audience member who shouts, “No fun allowed!” To which Bannon retorts: “No fun allowed? Who’s rule is that? That’s not my rule!” before the band revisit its past with a punishing version of “My Unsaid Everything”.
Humour is not a word often associated with Converge’s music, but for those familiar with the band’s live show, it’s clear that the guys in Converge try to enjoy themselves. It’s this mix of brute force musicianship and witty onstage banter that makes for an exhilarating live show. The sludgy “Worms Will Feed” slows things down after a wild airing of “Cutter” During “Tender Abuse”, dedicated to a guy who Newton thought was Opie from Sons of Anarchy, one of the many stage-invaders does a jig onstage, while Bannon and Ballou hilariously mimic him from behind. As the night progresses, more and more fans climb on stage to dive off; something that proves easy to do due to the fact that there are no security rails or security guards separating band from crowd. It reaches levels of ridiculousness during the more aggressive tracks such as “On My Shield” and “Axe to Fall”, and as the martial explosions of “Empty on the Inside” detonates, a long-haired fan grabs Bannon by the waist and refuses to let go - that is until Bannon drags him off by his hair.
From here, a palpable air of tension rises from the floor as the band rage through classics, “Eagles Become Vultures” and “The Broken Vow”. The venue’s security, who clearly do not understand the workings of a punk rock show, begin to eject fans from the venue for moshing and crowd surfing, taking such actions as being hostile. The tension reaches its peak during the rotten grooves of “You Fail Me”, when heavy-handed security guards and fans tussle near the exit doors. However, the tension is displaced somewhat as the last polluted riff of “You Fail Me” rings out and Converge leave the stage to rapturous applause from the packed house.
Returning for an encore, Bannon gives a positive speech to quell any negative tension left in the air between crowd and security, the crowd clapping in appreciation just as Ballou begins the sombre strains of “First Light”, which acts a precursor to the monumental crescendo that is “Last Light”—its ending dragged out in apoplectic fashion by the band.
It’s been a complete whirlwind of a night, one where the quality of the distinct support acts have complimented rather than elevated the headliner. More importantly, moments of almost riotous tension that could have spoiled the night have been eclipsed by moments of heartfelt sincerity, musical dexterity, and genuine hilarity, proving that in a live setting, no band balances ferocious musicianship, untameable energy, and sheer entertainment quite like Converge. As far as tonight goes, this band is in a league of its own when it comes to performing live.
2. Dark Horse
4. Aimless Arrow
6. Bitter and Then Some
7. All We Love We Leave Behind
8. Sadness Comes Home
9. My Unsaid Everything
10. A Glacial Pace
12. Worms Will Feed
13. Tender Abuse
14. On My Shield
15. Axe to Fall
16. Empty on the Inside
17. Eagles Become Vultures
18. The Broken Vow
19. You Fail Me
20. First Light
21. Last Light