LIVE: Converge / Terror / Sect / Fange @ The Ritz, Manchester

By Liam Knowles

Being the opening act for a seminal, vastly influential band like Converge must be beyond nerve-wracking. Being that act on just a couple of weeks’ notice because the original opener pulled out last minute, doubly so. With that in mind, fair play to Fange for getting up there and hammering out their set in front of a room full of people who definitely aren’t there to see them. Unfortunately, they sound just a little too much like tonight’s headliner (but just nowhere near as good, because honestly who is?) to make much of a splash. This fact, combined with muddy sound, makes for a bit of a false-start for the evening.

Thankfully, blistering hardcore quintet Sect have more than enough clout to invigorate the crowd. Every single member of this band has a serious CV (the band boasts members of Cursed, Earth Crisis, Undying and…err…Fall Out Boy) and this pedigree is reflected in tonight’s performance. Chris Colohan is a hardcore icon for a reason; his delivery on tracks like ‘Open Grave’ and ‘Crocodile Prayers’ is nothing short of ferocious, and the band behind him back him up with razor-sharp riffs that are executed flawlessly. Andy Hurley puts in some serious work behind the kit, leaving those only familiar with his arena-filling pop-punk work gasping at how fast, tight, and technical his playing really is. Sect’s set feels brief, but the bar has been set extremely high.

Terror, tonight’s main support, are a bit of a marmite act. Some people love their overly earnest, no frills approach to hardcore, whereas others find them a bit cringeworthy, and they’ve become a bit of a punchline in some circles. Whichever side of that fence you sit on, there is no denying that Terror have some serious chops when it comes to putting on a live show. Vocalist Scott Vogel is the quintessential hardcore front man, demanding action from the crowd at every opportunity and hurling the mic into the audience so that the eager punters can bellow out the lyrics to hardcore anthems like ‘Spit My Rage’, ‘Lowest Of The Low’ and set-closer ‘Keepers Of The Faith’. The band’s performance is tight and energetic and effortlessly gets the crowd riled up, despite the presence of a barrier and a sizeable gap in front of the stage. Terror may not be the most innovative band in the world, but they’ve been doing what they do for the best part of two decades now. They know how to do hardcore and they do it extremely well. If it ain’t broke… you know the rest.

Converge, on the other hand, are no strangers to innovation. They were a fairly unique band when they first appeared on the scene in the late 1990s, but since then they’ve become one of the most interesting and unpredictable bands in hardcore, and developed crossover appeal to all corners of the heavy music spectrum without ever losing their ferocity. Their live performances are renowned as some of the most visceral on the planet, and tonight’s set is no exception. Vocalist and hardcore paradigm Jacob Bannon quickly asks the audience if they’re ready before the band explode into ‘A Single Tear’ and honestly, no, we weren’t ready. Kurt Ballou’s sprawling riffs are crystal clear over Nate Newton’s bone-rattling bass tone, whilst Ben Koller pulls off superhuman feats of drumming behind it all. Converge are a rare example of a band where every single member is as worshipped in their field as each other, and for good reason. No other band could blast through erratic tracks like ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Aimless Arrow’ and make it look so easy. Jacob Bannon’s voice sounds fantastic tonight, both on the cleaner, spoken word-like passages, and when he kicks into his distinctive rasping scream.

The set itself is a solid mix of old and new, with classics like ‘Eagles Become Vultures’ and ‘Black Cloud’ nestled in amongst newer material like ‘Sadness Comes Home’ and ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’, but perhaps more surprising is the inclusion of deep cuts like ‘Locust Reign’ and ‘Forsaken’ from the band’s pre-‘Jane Doe’ days. Regardless of what song is being played, the crowd reaction is the same: passionate and manic. People absolutely LOVE this band, and it’s easy to see why. As they close out on the brief but devastating ‘Concubine’, Converge can walk away knowing that their reputation as a life-affirming live act is safe, if not stronger than ever.