w/Every Time I Die, Misery Signals, Zao, Bad Acid Trip
Fri Oct 15, Showbox, 5:30 pm, all ages, $13.50 adv./$15 DOS.
w/Cave In, Between the Buried and Me, Akimbo
Sat Oct 16, Graceland, 8 pm, $12.
Not your grandpa's heavy metal band, Converge are a fierce-sounding, blood-splattering screamo crew from Boston whose music is on the "extreme" side of this fairly immoderate genre. Birthed in the snarling, elbow-throwing, New England hardcore scene, Converge fused Slayer-like metal riffs and death-metal style growling into their blistering fuck-you-core. That sound is now as fashionable as hair metal was in the '80s, but Converge have been around for 13 years and, along with fellow New Englanders Hatebreed, were among the forefathers of the death-metal-adoring hardcore cult.
2001's Jane Doe put Converge at the head of the pack of irate, vicious-sounding dudes with white T-shirts, neck tattoos, and Red Sox baseball caps. The band put on spastic shows: howler Jacob Bannon fulminating like a fire-spitting dragon, wildly swinging his mic and racing across the stage, while drummer Ben Koller was a beast with double kick drums, the underpinning of their pulverizing sound. Converge's fans shook their fists, pointed in the air (both dated hardcore clichés) and went bonkers.
The band journeys deeper into the festering bowels of metal on their latest ear-splitter, You Fail Me, Converge's first for major punk label Epitaph. Though hardcore was originally one of the easiest genres for nonmusicians with a message to try their hand at, the members of Converge, like all the great metal bands, possess astonishing chops. They can play at bullet-train speed as they do on "Black Cloud," which is too fast for even sprightly jocks to mosh to.
Their magnum opus is the title song, a slow, grinding dirge with a maniacal guitar riff. The lyrics, "You fail me/with every fatal crush/you fail me/with every abandoned love/you fail me/with your inferno fuck me eyes/that burn as fuel for my city/and its neon lights/burn bright white line fever/take them all/you fail me" feature the singular straightedge hardcore theme of unfaithfulness transferred onto a sludgy metal epic. It's a theme begun perhaps with Minor Threat's "Betray" in 1984 and continued to this day.
Converge are also an unpredictable gang of young avant-metalers, completely changing up a song two-thirds of the way through, then slowing it down to a turtle's pace before plunging forward again into chaos.
A band that takes that anti-formula and runs with it even further is the Dillinger Escape Plan, whose math-metal ignores all theorems and traditional song structures in favor of sonic bedlam. These five manly-men, former hardcore scenester dudes from Morris Plains, New Jersey chuck horror-movie background music, frenzied experimental jazz guitar solos, creeping death-metal grooves, industrial noise, and the occasional hook onto their ambitious, new-fangled platter Miss Machine.
A couple of tunes, "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants" and "Unretrofied," include some actual singing and choruses--almost like real songs. On these more mainstream-sounding tunes, the band is closer in spirit to Glassjaw or Poison the Well. But the Dillinger Escape Plan can't resist throwing in a strange eerie electronic bridge or savage howling to make sure that even these songs never see the light of day on radio. It's the sort of weird-ass metal that can alienate even somewhat open-minded headbangers.
Like every other hardcore-bred band, the Dillinger Escape Plan are apparently obsessed with betrayal, in particular perhaps with one "punk rock prostitute," who is mentioned in "Van Damsel" and may or may not be the muse for the tunes "Phone Home" and "We Are the Storm." All three pissed-off songs contain vile, sexist lyrics like "you're my come rag" from "We Are the Storm" and "I made you/now you are my property/I can't discard" and "keep your mouth shut/and I can tell you're a good fuck/just by the way you wear that innocent look" from "Phone Home." While the Dillinger Escape Plan's music is mature for the metalcore crowd, the mean, you-fucked-me-so-fuck-you attitude of their lyrics is very junior high school.
But Miss Machine is a remarkable accomplishment. Few metal, hardcore, or crossover albums have ever embraced this much variety. Though the metal scene isn't one that necessarily applauds originality.
Both Converge and the Dillinger Escape Plan have their specific audiences (aggro weightlifters, art-school punks, and hip thugs among them), which they'll have to remain content with, because it's hard to envision a large-scale crowd ever getting into music that's this fucked-up.