Converge

support Touché Amoré + A Storm Of Light + The Secret
author PP date 11/12/12 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Converge are no strangers to Loppen, having also played at this venue the last couple of times they've been to Denmark discounting their Roskilde Festival performance two years ago. They could probably use a slightly larger venue considering how packed and sweaty the sold-out (or at least near-sold out) venue is tonight, but we're lucky there hasn't been an upgrade because the murky and intimate surroundings of the Christiania venue are exactly how a Converge show should be experienced. But more on that later. In tow with them the band had brought a slew of critically acclaimed and each in their own way unique bands to open, so lets spend a moment dissecting their shows first.

The Secret

The Secret

First up were brooding Italian metallers The Secret, who present to us a hybrid sound featuring equal amounts of crusty grindcore, uncompromising hardcore, and gloomy black metal in what pretty much sounds like ravaging cacophony in practice. Their smoke machine fills up large portions of the venue creating a certain type of mystique to their show, a murky setting which gives their d-beat hardcore an element of darkness required for their tremolo-ridden black metal sections. It's extremely noisy and abrasive - a typical example for a Kurt Ballou approved ensemble - so unless you know the songs from beforehand you're shit out of luck, because the band doesn't exactly make it easy to get into them if this is your first ever experience with them. The songs blend together purposefully to create a cacophony of sound that has earned them much critical acclaim on record, but live it leaves much to be desired, as the band's static stage presence defies their otherwise aggressive sound and relentless tempo. Aside from their head banging vocalist, who at times looks like the reincarnation of the devil himself, the band are stuck to their feet and make little effort to move, which makes watching their live show a bit of a yawn for those unfamiliar with the songs.

Josh Graham - A Storm Of Light

A Storm Of Light

It's interesting how an otherwise similar performance is one band's failure and another one's success. A Storm Of Light are likewise static on stage, but that's because it fits their style much better. They specialize in sludgy post-metal, which means many of their rhythms and arrangements are droning and progressive in their nature. By standing still in their respective positions and head banging in unison, they help create a hypnotic atmosphere that encompasses the entire venue in calm. People have largely stopped talking as everyone has entered a trance-like state where their whole being is fixated on the events on stage. Unfortunately, the band loses a significant element in their soundscape thanks to mic problems: their female backing vocalist Domenic Seita (ex-Tombs) cannot be heard at all during the whole set. Still, even with Josh Graham's harshly melodic prolonged croons alone, A Storm Of Light are able to manifest the same special atmosphere that surrounds their records in a live environment, which has to mean something from a 2nd support band. Well done.

Touché Amoré

Alongside their closest contemporaries in La Dispute, Touché Amoré are often credited as being among the most important of a new generation of hardcore/screamo bands, a tightly knit and emotionally wrenched group that prides itself on honest, passionate songwriting, incredible lyrical universes, and unforgettable soundscapes where nostalgia-driven bleak melodies crash into harder elements at a perfect mid-point between post-hardcore/screamo and hardcore. Big words, I know, but Touché Amoré are able to connect with their audience in a way few bands can, which is why every time they play a new city where they haven't been before, whether here in Copenhagen tonight or at Hevy Music Fest 2011, the crowd reacts the same way as it does every time: with a violently raw display of passion, a pure release of energy of the kind that's only manifested by bands that either achieve a cult-like status within their fans at an early stage or, like Refused before them, appeal to something so primal and close-to-heart in their fans that they simply have no choice but to crash towards the stage in unison screaming to the lyrics from the top of their lungs.

Touché Amoré

Already from the opening light strums of the brilliant "~" from their heart wrenching sophomore album "Parting The Sea Between The Brightness And Me", you can start sensing the anticipation that existed prior to tonight's show in people, although it still comes as a surprise when such a significant portion of the crowd storms towards vocalist Jeremy Bolm to scream to the opening lyrics of the song. That moment comes to characterize the rest of the evening with Touché Amoré, who treat us to 19 examples of why they are considered a seminal band already at this early stage of their career. For the remaining 45 minutes of their set, the same spectacle repeats itself over and over again, where the crowd screams in incredible passion all the key lyrics back at Jeremy, who isn't afraid to offer the mic to select audience members while himself reigning high above the crowd on top of the monitors. The temperature of the venue rises immediately from warm to almost unbearably hot despite the cold winter outside as the crowd energy intensifies and Touché Amoré plays one incredible song after another. Their stage energy overshadows all other bands tonight, and the connection between them and the crowd is undeniable: we're experiencing something special, and so it feels almost natural that when the band mute all their instruments during the last passage of the last song, the crowd screams along in a capella the entire last verse of the song in a brilliant display of fellowship, of what this band really means to these people, and of an intense connection that exists with so very few bands today. This is a support slot, yet Touché Amoré perform and own the venue as if they were headlining tonight. If anything, they prove that the ridiculous hype surrounding this band and their live performances is very real and justified. A packed basement venue is really the perfect venue for a set like this.

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Converge

It's well past midnight now (...to us employed people this is unbearable when you have to be up at 7 in the morning, for fuck's sake) and Converge have a mountain to climb ahead of them if they are to beat Touché Amoré in their own game. But as we've seen time and time again at this very same venue, they are the masters of intensity and raw, uncompromising hardcore that's designed to flourish in basement-style intimate venues like this. The crowd surrounds the band in a semi-circle, allowing vocalist Jacob Bannon to bounce around the edges manically while doing his trademark left-to-right stomp across the stage. Kurt Ballou rocks out the best he can, but Converge circa 2012 is so technical that at one point he needs to request more light so he can actually see what he's playing on his instrument. That's never an issue though, as Bannon alone is a spectacle to watch live every time, which is why he's drenched in sweat by song three and is ready to dump his sweater away.

Converge - Jacob Bannon

They perform with the sort of professionalism and integrity as you are to expect from a band that's considered a scene leader in more ways than we care to count, so the front lines of the crowd are in constant movement; many a bruise is a likely outcome for anyone involved within the first few rows of the small venue. Still, Converge are getting older (they are all closing in on 40 now), which is starting to slowly but surely show in their stage antics. What just six years ago seemed like omnipresent chaos and confrontation walking hand-in-hand, now is a little more moderate and controlled in comparison, in relative terms at least. And without taking anything away from the band's performance nor the crowd, the same magical connection as we saw for Touché Amoré simply doesn't exist to the same extent, partially because this isn't the first time Converge has played in Denmark, and partially because the band are already used to a solid reaction from crowd wherever they play, so the element of surprise and the awesome dynamic caused by that isn't there anymore. That being said, Converge play with passion and urgency as they always have done, so there's nothing to complain here, except that by the time the clock hits 1am, it's time for this scribe to head home to bed, even though the band probably had another 10-15 minutes in them afterwards. Oh, the life of a working man.

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Photos by: Rasmus Ejlersen

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