LIVE: Converge / Crowbar / Thou @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Liam Knowles

Massachusetts hardcore legends Converge are a bit beyond introduction at this point. Over the last three decades they’ve cemented themselves as an absolutely essential band, both on record and in a live environment. Following the release of 2017’s sublime ‘The Dusk In Us’, Converge are treating the UK to two sold out shows and bringing with them an absolutely stacked support lineup.

Unfortunately an early set time combined with having to negotiate through London at rush hour meant missing openers Grave Pleasures, but if anyone in the crowd was still needing a jolt after their set then Thou more than delivered it with their oppressively dense brand of sludge metal. Vocalist Bryan Funck possesses (alongside a fantastic name) a harrowing, ear-splitting screech that soars above the monolithic guitar tones. Thou may not have many tricks up their sleeve, but they do the one thing that they do extremely well; create an otherworldly racket that’s impossible to ignore.

Just like Converge, main support Crowbar have been going since the early 90s and are incredibly influential, having helped pioneer sludge metal alongside the likes of Eyehategod and Down. Many consider their 1998 opus ‘Odd Fellows Rest’ to be the jewel in their crown, so it’s no surprise that tracks like ‘Planets Collide’, ‘…And Suffer As One’ and ‘To Carry The Load’ are rapturously received. That said, every track in the set sounds monstrous and judging by the number of fans in the crowd, Crowbar could have headlined this venue without too much issue. They certainly have enough riffs to fill it, and probably a truckload to spare.

Converge receive a riotous reaction when they take to the stage, but throw the audience an immediate curveball by choosing to open with ‘Reptilian’, the slow-burning, Sabbath-worship-heavy closer from their most recent album. This false sense of security makes the blistering double whammy of ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Aimless Arrow’ that follows feel even more ferocious, whipping the crowd into a frenzy that few bands can generate. It’s clear at this point that Converge have brought their A-game tonight; Ben Koller’s inimitable drumming is delivered with military precision as usual, and the tones of both Nate Newton’s bass and Kurt Ballou’s guitar are somehow utterly disgusting and crystal clear simultaneously. The last piece of the puzzle, iconic vocalist Jacob Bannon, stalks the stage delivering gut-wrenching lyrics in his distinctive rasp. This is a perfectly honed band, every element is exactly as it should be, and the confidence with which they deliver their assault shows that they know exactly how god damn good they are.

Ten of the eighteen tracks played tonight come from ‘The Dusk In Us’, which for most bands with large, popular back catalogues would be considered a brave move. Not Converge, though, as they know they’re consistent enough to do pretty much whatever they want set-wise and the crowd will lap it up. ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’ and ‘Under Duress’ should undoubtedly go on to be staples in any Converge set, and the more subtle numbers like ‘Trigger’ and the poignant ‘The Dusk In Us’ perfectly balance the overall pace. That’s not to say the older material can’t hold its’ own, as ‘Eagles Become Vultures’ and ‘Last Light’ still sound as urgent and vitriolic as they did upon their release.

Closing with the short but devastating fan favourite ‘Concubine’, Converge can rest easy knowing that they knocked yet another performance out of the park, and that their reputation as one of the best live bands in heavy music remains steadfast. Hopefully next time they come to these shores they’ll do more than two shows so that more people are able to witness their majesty.