Converge Rages On
"It's probably the angriest record we've ever written."
Taken out of context, those words might not seem like much, but when you consider they come from Jacob Bannon, principal visionary and lead singer for hardcore heroes Converge, in reference to his band's latest opus, You Fail Me, they take on a whole new resonance.
Converge (filled out by guitarist Kurt Ballou, drummer Ben Koller and bassist Nate Newton) are hands down the single most dependable and highly lauded name in hardcore metal. Their previous masterpiece, the inimitable Jane Doe, is perhaps the definitive hardcore record of the post-millennial era. It marked a new direction for the band, towards more progressive realms, and effectively set a new standard for hardcore in the process. And man, is it angry.
So it's reassuring to know that, after more than a decade, Converge are still pissed off. And You Fail Me delivers this message in thick, wet blood.
"All of our records have been what I would call thematic records," explains Bannon. "They've all had elements that are present within all of the subject matter of that particular album. Mainly because when I write, I'm writing about the things I'm going through in my life, and usually you go through chapters in your life, and obviously some stuff is gonna linger and be relevant and be present through writing a record, and other things not."
When Jane Doe rose from the pages of Bannon's notebook, he was suffering from the abysmal symptoms of a broken heart. "It's dealing with loss, betrayal, the search for hope and desperation," says Bannon of Jane Doe. "It's a very desperate record, and for me, I guess, a very tragic record from a really, really low point in my life, and the record's about that. It's about coping with that, dealing with that, trying to find some sort of resolve in that.
"I know that my goal in creating something that emotionally bare and raw was simply not to have to deal with it anymore, to sort of put it out there and frankly be over it, and it didn't really work that way for me. And with that, that's how this record kind of came to be.
"I was still really angry, pretty self-destructive and just not really at the emotional place where I wanted to be, where I would feel healthy. I did a lot of soul searching, and that's where this record comes into play. I found a lot of not just faults within myself, but a lot of faults within other people as well and this record is about that, it's about those failures and overcoming that."
You Fail Me marks the band's further progression into rock elements and an overall deepening of their sound. Whether you consider the album's pastoral opening or the slowly unfolding acoustic darkness of "In Her Shadow" as the band forsaking their hardcore roots or provocatively expanding their sound is a matter of your hardcore devotion, but you can't deny that Converge haven't lost the ability to splatter your cortex with nullifying complexity on such certified trail-blazers as "Eagles Become Vultures" and "In Her Blood."
You Fail Me also stands as Converge's debut for Epitaph, which should effectively expose them to an entire legion of adoring new fans. But since Bannon founded and runs the much-admired Deathwish label, it might seem curious why Converge would opt for Epitaph over Deathwish.
"You want to be able to put out a record and concentrate on writing relevant music and making relevant art. You don't want to be hunting down people to license your record, and Epitaph allowed us to work with a world-wide label that has satellite offices in just about every territory. That's massive, and it's great because I can call one person and make sure everything is done everywhere. Epitaph was pretty much our first choice as a label. They're vehemently independent, hugely successful, and they're a world-wide label. And they're also very diverse, especially at this point in the label's progression. I remember I went to Epitaph in 1994 on my first tour ever. We were staying with Dave Smalley of Down By Law, and we went over there, and I was just amazed at this operation, because that was a time when this label was just becoming this massive thing. It was an awe-inspiring thing to see and to be around, and I've always really admired that it's an artist-run label that's artistically friendly and ethically sound."
With the business side of their band safely in Epitaph's hands, Converge are free to focus on what they do best: staying angry.
By Kevin Hainey
October 01, 2004