Staff Pick: Converge at Skully’s

By Columbus Alive
From the October 11, 2012 edition

“When we started this band we were teenagers,” Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon said by phone last week. “I think I started writing my first song for this band when I was like 13 years old, and I’m going to be 36 in a few weeks. This band has been our life’s work in a way.”

That life’s work received a new entry this week with the release of “All We Love We Leave Behind,” a sonic blitzkrieg that finds Bannon reflecting on how much he’s sacrificed to pursue his passion — namely, Converge, the innovative metal/hardcore hybrid for which he’s been shredding his throat since 1990.

A lot of other people share Bannon’s passion; few bands inspire such slavish devotion. The Boston combo, which will headline Skully’s Monday, is not wrong to label its fan base the “Converge cult.”

“What people have related to is our subject matter,” Bannon said. “All of our songs have always been about our personal lives within our friends and family and just the strife and turmoil that we deal with just like anybody else deals with. I don’t think I know anybody who doesn’t have a somewhat complicated family life in some way.”

The appeal may be universal, but not all metalheads latch onto Converge. Bannon offered a subtle dig at zealots who strictly adhere to subgenre distinctions barely discernible to the average listener.

“We’re soulfully in a different place than a lot of other heavy music is,” Bannon said. “A lot of times that can be off-putting because people want to hear a heavy that they understand. Because we’re a melting pot of a lot of different styles and approaches, we sound a bit foreign to a lot of people.”

Converge has indeed forged new ground in bone-crushing guitar music, particularly since cathartic 2001 masterpiece “Jane Doe.” That album was a turning point in terms of style and popularity, but Bannon and his bandmates haven’t stopped surging forward.

Progression comes hard. The members of Converge spend more time apart than together nowadays. When they do convene, it’s days straight in the basement hammering ideas into songs into albums. Then come studio sessions supervised by guitarist Kurt Ballou, one of heavy music’s most in-demand producers.

Though Ballou has learned to coax great performances without condescension, he’s still hardcore’s version of a ball-busting football coach; he sometimes makes Bannon scream through 25 vocal takes to get a song just right.

“At times you want to jump through the door and just be like, ‘Are you kidding me? I just had to do that 1,000 times. My throat’s bleeding. I’m profusely sweating. I have a headache. I can’t think straight,’” Bannon said.

He’ll bring that exhausting ferocity to Skully’s after sets from Torche, Kvelertak and KEN mode. Promoter Chris Wood said Monday’s show will probably be over by 11 p.m. due to the all-ages attendance policy, something Converge strives for whenever possible.

“I would get pissed off and bummed out before I was 18,” Bannon said. “I wanted to see Sacred Reich on a Wednesday when I was 15, and I couldn’t. That sucks! When you’re a kid, that’s your music, and that’s your experience to have.”