Chelsea Wolfe and Jacob Bannon join today’s Zoom call from opposite sides of the US, in opposite situations. She is in her house in California. Everything in it looks white, modern and pristine. He is 3,000 miles away in rural Massachusetts, in his front garden, which is bordered by monolithic red maple trees. His kids are full of beans, and his dog is nipping at his heels.
“I just brought home my five- and seven-year-old,” he explains apologetically. “Their rabbits just had bunnies for the second time this year, and they just found all the tiny little bunnies waiting for them. That’s why they keep running over here.”
The dissonance is strikingly appropriate, since the pair could not be further apart musically, either. Bannon is the frontman of New England brutes Converge: on stage, he’s a screaming maverick – a stark difference from the soft-spoken bunny dad currently on Zoom. The quartet rose through the underground in the 1990s, their blend of hardcore punk’s incessant aggro and thrash metal’s pummelling, technical guitar playing making them one of the heaviest bands in the world.
Their fourth album, 2001’s Jane Doe, is not only considered their scene-alerting breakthrough moment; it’s also frequently hailed as among the finest extreme albums of the 21st century. It was fundamental to the development of an entirely new style: “metalcore”. Its acolytes today include names such as Killswitch Engage and Architects, who are among the most commercially successful metal acts this millennium. Without Converge, heavy music today would arguably sound very different.
Wolfe, on the other hand, has been producing darkly alluring music since 2010. Her six studio albums run the gamut from folk to prog, yet they’re all tethered by their slow-burning songs and the singer-songwriter’s delicate vocals. To cast her against Converge is, on paper, to cast the dulcet sounds of a songbird against the apoplectic roars of a grizzly bear.