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As I waited in line to see Converge on May 28th in Toledo, OH (the show sold out, a rarity in these parts), the sixth evening downpour soaked the crowd. Bodies shivered and smoked, tucking hands under more-punk-than-metal shirts; Black Breath was well-represented. That was a good omen. Hardcore is recovering from Hatebreed-core, even in this industrial backwater.
Frankies has a strong history; it was where grunge bands came. The management proudly displays signed tour posters from as far back as the late ’80s behind glass next to the pit. Frankies is narrow but deep. Circle pits there tend to become ovals. Converge had the opportunity to play Headliners – a larger venue where bands like The Black Dahlia Murder and Job for a Cowboy play to loose crowds – but elected to play Frankies, compacting the crowd.
Locals Buried but Breathing warmed the crowd up. Despite being named after a Converge song (of course, they got the slot), they are a metal band. Their sound draws heavily from Lamb of God’s hardcore-inflected groove metal. Their secret weapon and strongest feature is a sense of melody straight out of Slayer’s ’83-’88 heyday. At their best, Buried but Breathing make the hairs on the back of my neck go rigid. When they release their self-produced debut, we will see if that translates to record.
Things got tense when Trap Them took the stage. I see Trap Them, along with Masakari, Early Graves, and the aforementioned Black Breath as sort of an alternative to deathcore: hardcore punk adopting death metal guitar tones and grooves as opposed to death metal adopting toughguy breakdowns.
This genre, as indebted to Converge as djent is to Meshuggah, is on the rise; the crowd adored Trap Them. They roused brief moments of celebratory violence with choice cuts from their album Darker Handcraft. At the first riff from “The Facts”, two large men and I sought out the lone hardcore dancer and sidelined him. The push-pit reigned supreme and, unusually for a Toledo show, I was having a blast.
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Burning Love played third. The Ontario band missed out on playing Toledo last year with Coliseum; the two bands sound virtually identical live. This style of southern-fried hardcore is always pleasant to hear, but Burning Love was all style and no songcraft. Truly, the people psyching one another up for 45 minutes of noisy, mathy hate rock completely roadblocked Burning Love’s set.
When Converge took the stage, people surged and convulsed. Stage diving began at riff one and did not stop. In Frankies confined area, it was impossible to keep still for the mass of moving bodies.
I fixated on Jacob Bannon first. He was wearing a black tank top printed like a brick wall so it resembled a bulletproof vest, and my mind leapt to Axl Rose. The comparison isn’t farfetched; Bannon has the charisma of a dictator and the energy of an Olympic sprinter. His Slash was Nate Newton, the perpetual motion bassist. Kurt Ballou was the calm center of their storm.
Converge began with “Concubine” and segued seamlessly into “Dark Horse”, the closest thing to hit singles they played. The set was heavy on from Axe to Fall but light on Jane Doe, with a few old favorites like “The High Cost of Playing God”. They even played “Runaway” and “On My Shield” from their two recent seven inches.
It was reaffirming to see my hometown shed its subdued nature and actually give a damn. Converge’s music is depressing and hateful when listened to alone. But in a group setting it feels jubilant, even celebratory.
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Converge – “Concubine/Dark Horse”
Live @ Ottobar, Baltimore, 5/20/11
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