Even before their set began Converge’s Jacob Bannon stalked around the stage, getting used to his surroundings as the 4th drum kit of the night was assembled. There were enough opening bands that a fenced off area, which blocked off the venues second bar, was required to house the vast array of various drum equipment. Their request for help with the problems with their hi-hat microphone and monitors went completely unanswered for several minutes but the band remained in a playful mood until someone finally arrived from the absentee sound crew, greeted by Bannon asking the audience to “Give it up for the employee”. You’d never guess he was in such good spirits just seconds into their set, as he lets loose his aggressive snarling energy. His tattooed neck veins bulging with ferocity, moving so much that every live photo of him is probably blurry. He only lets his intensity waiver as he says his surprisingly polite thank you’s over Kurt Ballou’s guitar distortion.

As the front section of the crowd goes wild, the crowd surfers are only momentarily airborne before being mauled over the barrier by security. Seeing this Bannon is quick to call the barrier a “buzzkill” which “doesn’t make this a Hardcore show”. Bannon overcame his gripes with the barrier by performing the majority of the first half of their set stood atop it. Unleashing his guttural bark whilst lying on the heads of the first few rows, pausing to shove the microphone into the faces of the most diehard, crushed and bruised fans. Allowing them to inaudible shout along during a fevered version of new album opener “Aimless Arrow”. The fans at the front were the most eager to embody the definition of a Hardcore show, and a wide gap in the crowd separated the violent throb of the front section from the remaining crossed armed, beer sipping others. Bannon moved back to the stage during the second half of the set, crouching next to his monitors or swinging and slamming his microphone hard to the floor or into his chest.

The drumming of Ben Koller was faultless throughout, and the toughened riff/snare ending of Jane Doe’s “Bitter and Then Some” was a ragged toughened highlight. Bassist Nate Newton provided furious backing vocals along with Ballou, and the shouted near ‘harmonies’ of Axe to Fall’s “Worms Will Feed/Rats Will Feast” added an ever darker edge to the crushing and bleak epic. The slower new album title track “All We Love We Leave Behind” demonstrated some progression in Bannon’s vocals, as he eased into its full power after the agonised bass intro.

It was a thrilling but exhaustive set, and the audience shouts for “Concubine” despite them opening with it, suggest that even their most diehard fans have difficulty distinguishing between their tearing Hardcore songs. These songs form a convulsive and brilliant set, but it’s hard to ignore that it is at times a little samey and that not all of the guitar work can be as memorable as the melting, mournful guitar croon and coarse riffs of “Sadness Comes Home”. Many seemed to have had their fill even before the pre-encore set was finished, and several people began to leave before the band returned for a second helping. It comes down to too much of a good thing, but I suspect that many would subject themselves to having their mind fried again by Converge’s excellent, suffocating barrage.

4/5

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