Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is The Dusk In Us, the ninth album from Converge.
When Jacob Bannon cries out “As a single teardrop fell and was swallowed by the sea, you outshined the best there was, rewrote who I could be,” on “A Single Tear,” the first song from Converge’s latest record The Dusk in Us, he zones in on why the band has meant to much to fans over the years. Life is constant war — against grinding yourself down to survive when people profit off your sweat and blood, against bullshit social norms, and as I wrote recently, against yourself. Insignificance is a fact of life: the universe is huge and you are a drop, you know the drill. If you let it constrain you, you’ve essentially given up, but if you embrace it you also actually rebel against it by giving your life meaning. Converge are specks like all of us — that doesn’t stop them from raising absolute hell wherever and whenever, and Dusk is another fine entry in their catalog, a metalcore album that’s grown up and also refuses to butt out the teenage spark that got them going in the first place.
Converge as individuals are all over the place: guitarist Kurt Ballou’s in the studio recording everyone from Nails to to Kvelertak to High on Fire; drummer Ben Koller also plays in Mutoid Man, a band best described as Intelligent Cock Rock; bassist Nate Newton’s got side gigs with the Cavalera brothers and Aaron Turner; Bannon got his doom Wovenhand on with his project Wear Your Wounds, who put out WYW back in April. That’s also a facet of Converge as a unit, a key to their longevity. Ballou’s playing is as wide-ranging as the bands he’s recorded, and it’s still largely a more chaotic form of ‘90s screechy noise-rock. This influence pops up more here: “Eye of the Quarrel” begins with Ballou’s spindly guitar that the Melvins would have worked in on Stag;” “Under Duress” takes the AmRep worship to another level with a grinding bass intro and gang vocals, a testament to Newton’s scrappiness and the band’s proficiency at mutation. “Quarrel” and “Broken By Light” flirt with big-hearted, against-all-odds melodic crust of Tragedy and Martyrdod; Converge know how to make sweeping gestures in small settings, so it’s a natural integration. And when it comes to seasick turbulence, the one-two punch of “Arkhipov Calm” and “I Can Tell You About Pain,” both fueled by Koller’s nimble power, Converge prove they can throw you the familiar and make it uncomfortable.
Dusk features a number of songs that aren’t just blazing notes and screams. Lest you think that’s me saying Converge are slowing down, remember that you’re likely to get a grimy boot in your face if you’re at the front row at one of their shows. They’ve earned the right to give themselves space. The title track takes a stab at forlorn doom, and it could have been a Wear Your Wounds track were it not for how it explodes at the end. “The Distance Between Us” could have only been written by road dogs like them, who traffic in unpredictability while secretly craving an ounce of stability. It’s filled with regret, and it’s the only song on here that doesn’t start or end raging, but it’s not a song of defeat. “Reptilian” throws this progression for a loop by throwing in a groovier lick Ballou likely picked up from working with Nails. Even at their most knuckledragging, Converge know never to settle for hardcore convention.
Earlier this year, I profiled Converge in conjunction with Jane Live, a live recording of their classic Jane Doe from their performance at Roadburn Festival last year. Live was the pitch; Doe was the real meat I wanted to get into. Something that struck me throughout talking to Bannon, Ballou, and Newton was how chill they were about the record. They all agreed it was their tipping point, that it set the stage for their continued success, but they don’t exactly revere the record as hardcore testament. They’re glad to talk about it — just don’t think of them as eternally looking back. Live was the first time they played through Doe in its entirety, and they could have been collecting nostalgia cash for a few years before. People define Converge by Jane Doe, and that’s not entirely without merit, as it still holds up. But Converge do not define themselves by Jane Doe — they define themselves at their present state. Dusk shows that while how they manifest their intensity has subtly changed, the intensity is still there, even brighter than before.
Andy O’Connor heads SPIN’s monthly metal column, Blast Rites, and also has bylines in Pitchfork, Vice, Decibel, Texas Monthly and Bandcamp Daily, among others. He lives in Austin, Texas.
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