Published Nov 17, 2017Converge are in the unique position of being "a high school band that never broke up," as guitarist Kurt Ballou told Berklee College of Music during a talk on the making of their 2001 album, Jane Doe. As the band members grew up, so did their creative outlet, which simultaneously inspired and fostered growth in a similarly adolescent genre: metallic hardcore, the youthful collision of metal and hardcore.
In the 27 years since their 1990 formation, Converge have blazed a trail for the genre, with others following at least a step or two behind them. The Dusk in Us is their latest album along that journey, one that's nearly as interesting as their boundary-pushing music. In our latest issue of Exclaim!, you can read the band's entire history, but until you can grab one, here's a teaser in the form of five noteworthy facts you may not know about Converge.
1. There are a handful of Converge songs that you'll never hear.
In 1995, Converge release a seven-inch called Unloved and Weeded Out via eventual Deathwish co-founder Tre McCarthy's label Orionquest Records. "It had teeth," vocalist Jacob Bannon says, linking it more to contemporary Converge than the stuff that predated it. The three-song release might have been a bit longer, but recording to the notoriously temperamental ADAT results in a lost track called "Tremor," which they eventually recover and include on a compilation sharing the Unloved and Weeded Out name.
Other hard-to-hear tracks include a few songs from Where Have All the Flowers Gone, which no band member has a copy of, as well as a cover of Black Sabbath's eponymous song. As of the posting of this story, there are also four unreleased songs from the sessions for new album The Dusk in Us.
2. They covered Twisted Sister's "Burn in Hell."
Sure, Converge have covered the likes of the Cure, Depeche Mode, Negative Approach, Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Vio-Lence and Entombed, but their most elusive (and perhaps most surprising) cover is of Dee Snider and co. It only appears (as an unlisted bonus track) on the initial CD release of Petitioning the Empty Sky on Ferret Records. The album has since been reissued numerous times sans-Sister (because they lost the master), meaning knowledge of the cut is not widespread.
Bannon explains the seemingly left-field choice: "We always thought that it was like a super heavy song that was actually a pretty well-crafted song. Popular metal culture always treated them like a sort of comedic act. We were like, 'Hey, you know, this song is pretty good, let's just have some stupid fun with it and pay homage to it, not take ourselves too seriously."
3. James Taylor shaped the sound of Jane Doe — kind of.
Jane Doe is recorded over 13 days by Matthew Ellard, whose goal is to make a "big rock record," and features some particularly noteworthy moments. After originally recording in the studio's larger room, they're kicked out (and consequently take over the smaller room) when singer-songwriter James Taylor books it for himself, paying full price and even getting escorted around by an entourage. Looking back for Decibel's Hall of Fame piece drummer Ben Koller quips, "Why did he need to be escorted? Who cares about James Taylor anyway?"
They record drums for the faster songs in the smaller room because they don't need the ambiance the larger room provided.
4. Fans hated the title track of You Fail Me when the band first started playing it live, claiming it sounds like Korn.
Bassist Nate Newton will tell Decibel that he wanted to "do a record that is more of an experiment of minimalism," as opposed to something "crazy and intense," a "Jane Doe Part II." To those lumping them in with the flavour du jour, the bassist offers: "No, fuck you man — that's not what we are at all. We're a punk band. We're a punk band that listens to metal. We're not a metal band trying to be punk."
Unfortunately, their growth sometimes went over fans' heads, with some likening the title track, which they'd been playing live for quite some time, to Korn. Comically, the song — described to Decibel as an industrial-esque piece by Ballou and as "this monotonous kind of Godflesh-meets-Sonic Youth sort of dirge" by Newton — was difficult for the band to pull off initially, the slower tempos requiring entirely different movements than the speedier muscle memory they'd built up.
5. Some of the band members' many side projects have written music that turned into Converge songs.
The guest performances on Axe to Fall vary in their levels of collaboration. Three of the songs began in the Verge-In project half a decade earlier, with "Effigy" actually featuring tracks that Cave In members Stephen Brodsky, Adam McGrath and J.R. Connors recorded then. Rough mixes of "Wretched World" were given to Genghis Tron when Ballou produced their album in 2007, with the trio tinkering away on it and Bannon later telling Noisey it was "the only song that had a collaborative feel to it." The third Verge-In relic, "Cruel Bloom," is given to Neurosis's Steve Von Till, who tweaks the lyrics and arrangements. Ballou adds a small choir to the final product.
There are also adopted tracks on Jane Doe; Bannon told Exclaim! back in 2001 that the title track and "Phoenix in Flight" were initially set for his Supermachiner project.
The Dusk in Us is out now.