Influence is a fickle beast, bearing the inconvenient combination of being difficult to both avoid and entirely conceal. Neither musicians nor fans live in a bubble, and given the capabilities of the internet, its infinitely more probable that some of the records in John Doe’s collection helped form the framework of budding bands’ latest release. But being a “copycat” isn’t necessarily negative, nor is that label always justified. For example, Thulcandra‘s Ascension Lost didn’t make a splash last year despite being heavily indebted to Dissection, but precisely because it took a sound adored by fans of the genre and excelled in representing it as their own. Familiarity often breeds fondness; a fresh face playing a venerated style can allow listeners to both embrace the new and recall what they love so much about the old. Église illustrate this point brilliantly on their self-titled debut, which channels everything Convegre fans adore into a record that succeeds in every facet.
Église packages the raw intensity and subtle explorations of You Fail Me and No Heroes under a cover that would have fit within Jacob Bannon‘s liner note artwork for All We Love We Leave Behind. It’s the kind of listening experience that feels nostalgic and refreshing at the same time, and at just eight tracks, its always tempting to hit replay as soon as “In Search of Substance” ironically closes an album chock full of it. Église are arguably Converge’s equals instrumentally: Lukas Frederiksen’s riffs like Kurt Ballou at his angriest; Mathias Thevik Ernst could make a worthy substitute for an injured Ben Koller; and Lars Mårtensson pops through with thundering bass lines just like Nate Newton. And it’s not just ripping metallic hardcore either, though “The Clouds” and “Blood Vessels” trample silence within their terse run times. Anchor track “Have I Become Hell” captures that signature Converge trait that so many aspiring bands strive for, being an effectively executed mid-paced romp. A failed attempt can obliterate a record’s momentum, but Église know exactly how to maintain aggression while dialing down the tempo.
Martin Nielskov’s contributions as a vocalist and – presumably – lyricist must be singled out from his band mates, particularly because of his latter occupation. While Nielkov may not win any awards for enunciation, performances this cathartic operate best as unrestrained cries of pain. But just like Bannon, what lies beneath the wounded bark is more than worthy of appreciation its own right. Tracks like “For All That Is Growing” should make fans thankful that Église include lyrics with Bandcamp downloads:
Realize the power of everything that is growing. My soul has no taste for paradise tonight. I swear by my flesh that everything I am is a collaboration that goes beyond our wildest imagination. Since I am convinced of this, who am I then?
Though brief, Nielkov’s lyrics on each of the albums tracks showcase a certain mortal nakedness that’s difficult to come to terms with and even harder to represent in a way that seems earnest and not simply contrary to dominant beliefs. Through his words, it’s clear that Nielkov isn’t a heavy toker attempting to seem “deep,” but a genuine thinker who has astutely manifested his existential musings into lyrics both profound and artful.
Anyone that calls Église “Converge worship” is both missing the point and missing out. This is an excellent slab of metallic hardcore that should easily earn spot on the year end lists of every fan of the genre. Just one listen will convince listeners that Église has a bright future in the scene and remind them why they initially fell in love with Converge. But before they put on Jane Doe for the umpteenth time, they’ll make sure to enjoy every last brilliant note that Église has to offer.