Neurosis / Converge / Amenra Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, July 7

Neurosis / Converge / Amenra Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, July 7
Photo: Sharon Steele
9
Dream lineups come along every so often. For fans of heavy, emotional sounds, a Neurosis / Converge / Amenra triple bill was pretty much the highest pinnacle that could be conceived and achieved.
 
Amenra are a Belgian five-piece who have released several albums on their home turf and gained added acclaim for their last two albums, Mass V and Mass VI, which were released by Neurot Recordings. They hit the stage to attract a large gathering for an opening act and did not disappoint. Working through a muffled sound, the group pounded their way onto Western Canadian soil with a hypnotic fury that was equal parts their headlining counterparts and the French metallic hardcore of Morsel; the sweet spot between ethereal soundscapes and tear-your-head-off chaos.
 
A fired-up Converge are a sight and sound to behold. Covering the majority of the material from their latest album, The Dusk in Us, the Boston quartet were on a mission to worm their way into every skull in the building. Drawing on the spastic forebears of emotional metallic hardcore (Rorschach, Bloodlet, Deadguy) and crusty metal (Nausea, Rudimentary Peni, Amebix), Converge have become that band who can only lead and never follow. Ending with "Concubine," from their landmark 2001 album Jane Doe, the band imploded into silence, then applause, all four of them heaving at the chest in exhaustion as they left the stage.
 
Oakland institution of heaviness Neurosis have never been the types to disappoint. As keyboardist/soundscapes technician Noah Landis did trancelike calisthenics and the other four members assumed their posts, the crush of those first riffs on "Given to the Rising," off 2007's album of the same name, hit hard between the solar plexus and down deep into the gut; a rumble that overpowered the whole room and rendered the near-capacity crowd silent.
 
The following 90 minutes were what a hardcore atheist could only describe as a "religious experience," eight- and nine-minute megaton jams taking listeners to places they never thought they would or could go. Tracks from the group's latest album, Fires Within Fires, sounded particularly imminent and ambient; raging anthems to rattle the heavens.
 
An epiphany took place at the end of the set's third song, "End of the Harvest" (on Neurosis time, this was about 30 minutes in). Its crushing heaviness was repeated in staccato formation and, then, pure silence as no pins were heard dropping. Neurosis's set could have ended there and everyone would have gone home happy. Instead, we got another hour of end times, a glimmering hope for a viable future still simmering beneath the surface.
 
The takeaway was this one of the best live shows in any genre in a long while. But was there ever any doubt?