Have you ever experienced synesthesia? Synaesthesia? You could look it up … I’ll wait …
The short version is that synesthesia is a condition where you perceive one phenomenon via some other sensory method. Does the flower smell green? What color is the number 1? What shape is red? Now, can you answer those questions non-pharmaceutically?
As far as I know I have never experienced anything other than literary or metaphorical synesthesia … until now. When I listen to Converge, I swear I smell a faint peppery odor. Oddly enough, it’s only while listening to the album All We Love We Leave Behind. What does pepper smell like? Apparently, it’s much like an aggressive dose of metalcore (is there a non-aggressive version?).
In an aside, what’s with every variety of music being “cored?” I mean, really! Hardcore? Fine. I get that. How about:
- Synthcore? Program your synthesizers to support the anarcho-syndicalists …
- Nintendocore? Share your rebellion with Mario!
- Pornocore? “We pound our …” Wait a minute, I get that one.
Back to metalcore. I’m not exactly sure what it means, but here’s how it works for me. I used to be a big metal fan until I realized all I was hearing was basic chugging riffs, guitar solos competing to put the greatest number of nearby notes into a random order, and people in leather or spandex with expressions of either the need for imminent bowel evacuation or recent snorting of wasabi. Even the aggression seemed forced. I gave up on it and decided I’d try out hardcore punk. Suddenly, there was a sweaty twitchy guy telling me “Gonna’ hurt show Gonna certs, yo, but not forever” or something like that. It was AWESOME! For about 8 minutes. Every 2 months. Somewhere along the way, hardcore vocalists started barking. I don’t know why. They just did. After that, I’m guessing the hardcore folks realized the death metal dudes were getting all the girls and … <tada> … metalcore was born: rebellion, barking, and metal. And that proves how much of an expert I am!
There’s lots to recommend about Converge. They brought me back to metal by pushing their songs so hard and fast that I forgot what sort of things I should scoff at. And yet, these guys are oddly normal. On one song, the lyrics, barked with true sensitivity, are about the lead singer’s, Jacob Bannon, dog’s death. Read the lyrics! They’re tender in a hardcore kind of way. No, really.
Also, I watched an interview of Kurt Ballou in his studio. On the album, he’s the aggressive guitarist (the non-aggressive guitarist stayed home). In the interview, he’s a mild, polite, thoughtful man who continually pets his tiny dog. I’m all for consistency, being the same thing in and out of character, but I like complexity even better!
As for the music, if I listen carefully, I can identify this or that influence or origin, but the songs are so compelling that I can rarely keep my attention so narrowly focused. One thing, though, it feels like the drums are the driving force here. No part of it sucks, but the drums always seem to emphasize the right thing, motivate the right energy changes, and otherwise keep my nose sniffing pepper.