I first heard Converge when and friend of mine and I ordered a copy of ‘When Forever Comes Crashing’ via mail-order in about 1998. We thought they were an emo band, and were pretty torn apart by the ferocious and dark music that came tearing out of the speakers.
Since then, I’ve been deeply in love with everything they’ve done, and I’ve seen them live in pretty much every era of their career. I’ve also recorded B-sides with Kurt [Ballou, guitar] at Godcity Studios, and been lucky enough to befriend the band. I think they are unquestionably the best heavy band of their generation, effortlessly straddling punk, metal and hardcore to make art that is unique, uncompromising and just fucking awesome.
THE SADDEST DAY (Petitioning The Empty Sky, 1997) Any Converge anthology has to start with this song. You can hear an entire genre being torn apart in the first 30 seconds. I often feel that, in a way, hardcore as a genre can be defined as before and after this song. It was so progressive when it first landed; it drove me nuts. Incredible.
DARK HORSE (Axe To Fall, 2009) Classic later-period Converge with (dare I say it) almost a pop chorus. You can sing along if you try hard. The more melodic metal guitar work was an interesting departure for them at the time, but it didn’t damped their ferocity, thankfully.
EAGLES BECOME VULTURES (You Fail Me, 2004) One of their best. Total onslaught from top to bottom. If I’m trying to introduce someone to this band, this is usually the first song that I play for them. The way the downbeat of the end section arrives after the break really sounds and feels like a skyscraper collapsing to me.
WHEN FOREVER COMES CRASHING (When Forever Comes Crashing, 1998) Their earlier stuff is less appreciated, but it blew my mind to pieces when I first heard it in 1998. This was the first record of theirs that I ever heard. This song is so fucked, it’s awesome. The creepy melodic vocals are a feature of their early stuff that I really love, it’s so uncomfortable and odd.
CONCUBINE (Jane Doe, 2001) The opening attack of Jane Doe, which many people think of as the definite record. Screams, blast beats, fucked up guitar, everything you want from this band, delivered in a neat one minute and nineteen seconds.
AIMLESS ARROW (All We Love We Leave Behind, 2012)
It’s hard for a band of this ilk to keep their oeuvre fresh, but this song, and the accompanying album, proves they have what it takes, even this many albums into their career. The way Kurt keeps finding new, odd bits of melody in the midst of the aggression is both mystifying and inspiring for me.
BURIED BUT BREATHING (Petitioning The Empty Sky, 1997) A much more traditional hardcore song than their usual output, but it proves they can do the classic style as well, when required, and shows that when they decided to subvert the entire genre they were part of, they already had their chops down. They rarely play it any more but it’s great for a pile-on singlaong.
JANE DOE (Jane Doe, 2001) The sound of the band stretching themselves sonically, temporally and melodically. A fittingly epic ending to the magisterial Jane Doe record, over 11 minutes of harrowing self-examination and rage.
MY UNSAID EVERYTHING (When Forever Comes Crashing, 1998)
The first Converge tune I ever heard, and still a total steamroller of a song. Get the recently remixed version of this record, the tweaks to the sound make the precision of their music more apparent. It’s also pretty much the only Converge song I can actually play on the guitar, as well as featuring some of my favourite of Jake’s lyrics.
THIS IS MINE (The Poacher Diaries, 1999) The Agoraphobic Nosebleed split EP is one of the more obscure Converge releases, but there was some classic shit on there, with the last, short-lived rhythm section before they settled on the classic line-up. It’s worth seeking this out. Agoraphobic Nosebleed are also pretty intensely amazing as well, incidentally.
BITTER AND THEN SOME (Jane Doe, 2001)
One minute and 28 seconds of total carnage. Most bands spend a career trying to be this intense. I love the way they have a habit of writing weird, uncomfortable riffs that are still catchy and driving.
NO LIGHT ESCAPES (All We Love We Leave Behind, 2012)
A bonus track from this album, and I just fucking love it for some reason. It’s faster and harder than some of the other stuff on All We Love We Leave Behind, with a classic mid-paced hardcore breakdown in the middle as well.
FIRST LIGHT / LAST LIGHT (You Fail Me, 2004) The sine qua non of Converge, the perennial set-closer, the fucking bomb. This shit is untouchable. The chilling melody of the guitar breaks melds perfectly with the chaotic drums and the desperate, passionate lyrics. I was lucky enough to be asked to sing the end of this with them at a London show a few years back, which was a special moment for me.
Listen to the songs on our Spotify Playlist: The 13 best Converge songs, by Frank Turner.
Frank Turner’s latest album Positive Songs For Negative People is out now through Polydor.