The Underworld is the best name they could ever have given this grimey little hole in central Camden. It has established itself at the heart of alternative rock, metal and hardcore in England, and continues to attract the best the scene has ever had to offer. In the basement of the Worlds End, several pillars obscuring your view, and a stage so small that bands practically fall off it into the crowd, gigs are always intense. Only two days before, a good friend of mine had the pleasure of witnessing theÂ bloodbath that was Enter Shikari – every song interrupted by a stage invasion, mass stage-diving, and reports of blood and broken noses all over the shop.
You can understand, then, a slight sense of trepidation about what injuries I”™m likely to sustain when I go to see the seminal hardcore act Converge during their European tour for Axe To Fall (Epitaph, 2009).
Tonights gig had a long roster of acts, with Kylesa, Gaza, Kvelertak, Crippled Black Phoenix, & Rot In Hell all in support. I make it early enough to catch the fullÂ Gaza set. A perpetually abrasive, sludgier-than-sludge take on doom metal, with the occassional nod to extreme mathcore acts such as PsyOpus, these guys were as unlistenable as they were entertaining. They had an intense sense of groove, which allowed their set to chug along with a sense of doomrific certainty that was highly entertaining. If you”™re not a fan of screaming, though, you”™ll find these guys hard to swallow.
Kylesa mix a classic Tennessee sound with metalcore, stoner rock and a tribal heaviness brought about as the result of having two drummers. Guitarist Laura Pleasants is a bit of a sex-symbol on the doom scene (though I prefer our compatriot Liz Buckingham of Electric Wizard personally), and I did find myself slowly mesmerised by the deep, slow sludge riffs and the psychadelic melodies she offered”¦ until she produced what can only be described as the biggest flob I have ever witnessed, and the illusion was shattered.
Converge took to the stage a little after 10, with the tattoo-strewn front man Jacob Bannon displaying the type of stage presence you would expect from a hugely influential yet respectably underground hardcore act like these. From start to finish Bannon was an unmissable focal point, sweating passion from every pore, screaming, energy abound, as if he was as angry now, at 33, as he ever has been. The crowd are allowed so close in the Underworld that you could sense the energy passing between band and audience. Converge were on fire, pounding out a large selection – unsurprisingly – of their new material, received by the crowd as excitedly as material from the classic Jane Doe and other earlier releases.
This gig served to highlight the quality of current albumÂ Axe To Fall – tracks likeÂ Dark Horse (For all those born to die / and those that lost the fight / how many fallen friends died within out sights?),Â Reap What You Sow (We mourn who we were / love what we lost / in the grave of youth) and the title trackÂ Axe To Fall (Waiting for the axe to fall”¦ my will is leaving / darkness falling / need to finally cut me from you) are of such grit, power and honest savagery that you grind your teeth at the injustice in the the world even if you”™re the most optimistic of souls.
Converge have remained at the top of their game by retaining the passion of their early years, only adding nuances to their style to sway their energy to new territory. They are a frightening, highly-charged 4 piece who continue to front the underground hardcore scene, with records and a live show that are totally unmatched.