I have a unique history with Salem, Massachusetts’ Converge. Having followed them since their Caring & Killing days, my friends and I would check them out as well other metalcore luminaries such as Overcast, Shadows Fall, Disembodied, and Zao. But whereas the other aforementioned bands would put on some chaotic live shows, Converge‘s sets were a different beast entirely. Picture violent gang-shouts by Jacob Bannon and the audience, guitarist Kurt Ballou bouncing off of people’s heads like a live-action Super Mario, and people diving off stages, off of people, and even off of balconies.1 But for whatever reason, the band fell off the radar for me after 1998’s incredible When Forever Comes Crashing. Simply put, I thought I outgrew their chaotic brand of hardcore. And because of that, I missed one of the biggest about-faces with their legendary 2001 album, Jane Doe; an album that married their atonal metalcore with thick post-metal influences. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve been playing catch-up with their catalog, and the amount of progress on each subsequent album has been nothing short of astounding.
The growth and maturity continue on their ninth album, The Dusk in Us. Just as “A Single Tear” proceeds to rip you a new one with a frantic “‘Thunderstruck’ on caffeine” riff and Ben Koller’s slaughtering of his drumkit, you would be forgiven if your jaw also dropped at the revelation that the song is about Bannon becoming a father for the first time (“When I held you for the first time/I knew I had to survive.”). Somehow, “A Single Tear” becomes both a touching memento of first-time fatherhood and one of the band’s most visceral tunes penned to date. This duality isn’t particularly new to Converge or their fans, but the way the band expertly merged a lovingly euphoric feeling with vitriolic catharsis exemplifies why Converge remains head-and-shoulders above their contemporaries.
The Dusk in Us also throws out some short-and-sweet backward glances to their earlier days on “Broken by Light,” recalling their When Forever Comes Crashing days, with an ending guaranteed to go down a fucking hoot live. “Eye of the Quarrel” also tosses older fans a bone with some fat bass work by Nate Newton, a frantic d-beat, and rushed vocals. But their strength in recent years lies in their ability to craft long, sprawling songs that build and climax, washing the listener over in waves of emotionally crushing post-rock. The title track, clocking in at over seven minutes, pays off in dividends with an incredible build-up and phenomenal climax commencing at 4:44, and lasting to the song’s end. Elsewhere, “Thousands of Miles Between Us” breaks hearts with a pummeling rhythm section and a wrenching chorus (“There is no place in this world to hide/My shattered smile that life provides/Stand up straight, take it on the chin/Pick up my teeth and start again.”). Both sides of Converge shine brightly throughout the album’s duration.
Once again recorded in Ballous’ infamous GodCity Studio, The Dusk in Us reveals densely packed layers of guitars, but miraculously Newton’s bass remains thick and beefy throughout. Also, Bannon’s voice sounds clearer than on previous works, allowing for his poetic lyrics to breathe and paint a chaotic, beautiful picture. Very little fault can be found on here, though I will admit that “Trigger” didn’t do much for me, short as it was. Another more minor nitpick is that “Eve,” the colossal B-side to the “I Can Tell You About Pain” single released earlier this year, could have easily been added to the album’s tracklisting, given how strong the overall package was. Then again, I understand completely the need to let that song shine on its own.2
It’s rare for a band with over 25 years of history to remain relevant with the changing tastes of the music scene at large. It’s next to impossible, however, for a band to be around that long and not only remain vital, but continue to improve, mature, and captivate, all while remaining unflinchingly heavy, brutal, and most importantly themselves. Converge have once again thrown the gauntlet down for others to pick up. Let The Dusk in Us wash over you.
- Think less “Eddie Vedder in the ‘Even Flow’ video,” and more “Ezio Auditore leaping off the Sistine Chapel, but with moshing people replacing bales of hay” for an accurate mental image of those days. ↩
- And, man, does it ever shine. For a while, “Wretched World” (off of 2009’s Axe to Fall) was my go-to Converge song. But “Eve” eclipses that with relative ease. Give it a listen, when you have the chance, and thank me later. ↩