At this point in their career, Converge could be considered a sort of brand; not because there is anything particularly acquisitive or corporate about how they operate, but because of the sheer expanse of their influence on, and presence within, the contemporary metal and punk scenes. Aside from pioneering metalcore and spearheading the development of the genre’s more technical sister style, mathcore, the four-piece’s current configuration — which was solidified as the definitive Converge line-up with the recording and release of the group’s magnum opus from 2001, Jane Doe — is comprised of members who all have their fingers in many pies throughout the music world. Each member has graced both the stage and the studio with a smorgasbord of other metal and punk acts, whilst frontman and founding member Jacob Bannon houses many of these genres’ most extreme and eccentric acts on his record label, Deathwish Inc., ranging from exciting up-and-comers like Deafheaven to well-established hardcore titans like Integrity, whilst also contributing album artwork to bands as varied as Sepultura and Fall Out Boy. Just as significant, of course, is Converge’s guitarist and only other founding member, the omnipresent Kurt Ballou, who has racked up a sizeable discography as both a guest musician and as a producer working at his own GodCity Studio, with the artist having worked his magic on no end of phenomenal rock records in recent years, including two of my personal favourite metal albums of the year, Full of Hell’s Trumpeting Ecstasy and Chelsea Wolfe’s Hiss Spun.
When not pulling strings behind the curtains of today’s metal and punk scenes, however, Bannon, Ballou and the rest of the band have maintained a relatively steady release schedule across Converge’s career, dropping new records every few years that have failed to falter in the slightest when it comes to sending shockwaves throughout the music world. Ever since the iconic and multi-genre-defining Jane Doe exposed Converge to an audience that reached far beyond their initial cult following, the group has continued to top year-end lists with their brand of metalcore, which is as big on technical turbulence as it is on sheer, supercharged savagery. That’s not to say, however, that Converge are a band to fixate for too long on one specific approach to their convoluted craft, and many of the stylistic threads that the group has strung throughout their discography are intertwined on their first studio effort in five years, The Dusk In Us. Starting with their seventh studio album, 2009’s Axe To Fall, Converge’s last two records have been far more diverse in terms of style, songwriting and their overall sonic quality compared to the trilogy of throttling metallic hardcore releases that came before them, with the group’s progressive rock inspirations being reflected in the form of some softer and more slow-burning jams scattered amongst the usual webs of gnarled guitar passages and pummelling grooves. In this sense, The Dusk In Us could certainly be seen as Converge returning to their classic sound on the surface, but many of the cool, calm and collected intricacies of their previous two records show up across their ninth album, albeit slightly obscured by the blinding rage and blistering technicality that defines the band’s iconic sound. Constructed with the same elaborate architecture that has long-since underpinned Converge’s labyrinthine metalcore stylings, much of The Dusk In Us acts as a culmination of all of the group’s stylistic explorations from across their career to date, coming together as an exceptionally diverse, vibrant and heady release, even by the band’s already high standards.
Forever the innovators when it comes to structuring songs and assembling the various, jagged jigsaw pieces that represent each of the band’s many facets, Converge continue to craft convoluted and meticulous compositions on The Dusk In Us, whether these take the form of propulsive, through-composed bangers that fly past at lightning speed, or more patient slow-burners that emphasise the group’s flair for developing gargantuan climaxes. Broken by Light is one such song that falls on the former side of the fence, and lives up to Converge’s reputation as a band who can effortlessly cram as many painstaking components into a single, two-minute-long track as is humanly possible. Indeed, Broken by Light is one of those Converge songs that hits the sweet spot of being built on a catchy lead melody and contagious, driving groove, whilst the group still manages to splice in an array of melodic quirks and rhythmic switch-ups to keep the listener constantly on their toes. In the case of this song specifically, however, this all happens before the band ramps up the intensity with a slower and more thrashy section to herald one of Ballou’s strident guitar solos, only to then break things down completely during the track’s final moments. The succeeding song, Cannibals, is a similar affair, and most definitely harks back to the band’s earliest, pre-Jane Doe material, given Bannon’s pained screams and the rhythm section’s relentless bombardment of classic metalcore and post-punk grooves, not to mention the fact that this is one of the few cuts from The Dusk In Us to distinctly favour ferocity over dynamics. As testament to how much the group has grown, however, this isn’t the case for all of the shorter songs in the tracklisting, with the two-and-a-half-minute-long Wildlife being a punchy cut that is rendered with the slick, serpentine fretwork that is so commonly associated with Converge’s more mathematical approach to metalcore, whilst still making space for a discernible dynamic quality through the varied use of the drums and guitar.
On the other side of the fence, of course, are the more poised pieces that, despite reaching some of the record’s most mammoth heights, are far more forbearing in their progressions. Undoubtedly, the single song from The Dusk In Us that most evidently exemplifies this portion of Converge’s diverse songwriting style is the title track, which easily stands out in the tracklisting courtesy of its seven-and-a-half-minute duration, whilst the penultimate cut, Thousands of Miles Between Us, is the only other track that even comes close to rivalling its more patient nature. Of course, not only is this side of Converge’s sound far less definitive than their more technical and hyperactive tracks, the band is also not necessarily at its strongest when working from this angle. This being said, although the title track may not completely justify its lengthy runtime, it’s nevertheless largely successful for a metalcore slow-burner. With its first half being comprised of an eerie verse section, complete with a hushed and haunting vocal performance by Bannon and the distant howling of Ballou’s guitar, and a chord-driven chorus that carries a memorable vocal melody, the group does a great job of setting the tone for the track, whilst also inviting the listener to pay close attention to the lyrical subject of inner turmoil and disintegration conveyed through dark imagery of night, shadows and ghosts. Meanwhile, it should go without saying that this subdued introduction is also primed for setting the listener off guard, as to ensure that the roaring, trudging climax hits with full-force, which it most definitely does. If anything, the real issue with the title track boils down to its placement in the tracklisting and how this affects the pacing of the album. As the sixth song in the tracklisting, being sandwiched between the record’s raucous lead single, I Can Tell You About Pain, and the aforementioned, frenetic Wildlife, the title track acts as quite the damper on the album’s momentum, which becomes all the more apparent when considering just how suited this song would be as the closing song. Ending a metal record with its longest, slowest and most suspenseful song may seem like somewhat of a cliché, but it can be incredibly effective when executed properly, and it’s easy to envisage just how impactful it would have been to end The Dusk In Us with the booming conclusion to the title track, especially with Bannon screaming the album’s title during the song’s final moments.
Having spoken about the two extremes to The Dusk In Us in terms of tone and songwriting style, it’s important to talk about what lies between, as this is where Converge most potently weave together the myriad stylistic influences that have continued to expand their sound over the course of their career. Likely the most forceful of these songs in the album’s opener, A Single Tear. Steeped in the tortuous, progressive stylings that have been pushed closer to the forefront of Converge’s sound since Axe To Fall, A Single Tear assumes an almost entirely linear format, with the tonal dynamics of the track ranging from the chugging, breakdown-style chorus section to the agile lead melody and throttling groove of the opening passage. Of course, with this introductory verse section being laced with Ballou’s nimble, frenzied riff-craft, whilst the rhythmic juggernaut that is the duo of drummer Ben Koller and bassist Nate Newton constantly switches between pumping out a driving beat and emphasising the accents in the guitar’s melody, the band’s most iconic material most definitely imparts its influence on A Single Tear, even if it is worked amidst a much more sinuous style of song structure. What is likely most striking about A Single Tear, however, is the pervasive influence from post-hardcore that seeps into the song, which becomes most apparent during the bridge, with the instrumental breakdown directing all of the listener’s attention towards Bannon’s impassioned proclamations about holding his newborn son for the first time, with this heartfelt and overtly personal lyrical angle pairing with the music in a way that is evocative of a band such as Touché Amoré. This more emotionally-driven edge to Converge’s stylings has become far more apparent in the group’s most recent output and, in this regard, The Dusk In Us takes this angle to a much broader perspective. This is not only true on the lyrical side of things, but it’s accurate of the music too, with a track like Thousands of Miles Between Us boasting perhaps the most poignant build-up and pay-off of any song in the band’s back-catalogue. The initial, fractured tone of Bannon’s dejected vocal performance and the downtrodden guitars is tinted with a more menacing hue upon the entry of Koller’s plodding drumming, before building to the emotional apex of the soaring vocal melodies and sludgy instrumentation during the final chorus, which perfectly captures the aching chasm evoked in the song’s lyrics.
As has hopefully become clear, perhaps the most obvious and impactful strength of The Dusk In Us is just how effectively Converge manage to inject each of these 13 songs with a discernible character of their own, practically all of which, in some way or another, embody some aspect of the group’s growth over the course of their career. This could be shown through how effectively the band employs the vocals of Bannon as well as Ballou and Newton on Eye of the Quarrel and Under Duress, or through the extent to which Koller’s choppy and often frantic drumming style — which has played a fundamental role in Converge’s technical leanings since the drummer joined the band for the recording of Jane Doe — provides the basis for the mania of songs such as I Can Tell You About Pain. On top of this, Converge continue to bring their varied and detailed songwriting dynamics to the table, not to mention their cohesion and chemistry as a collective of highly skilled musicians, with The Dusk In Us ultimately making for another exceptional release in the group’s discography that doesn’t simply reiterate the stylings of their most iconic material, but retains what made them so great, whilst shining a new light on them.
The Vinyl Verdict: 8/10