Converge - "The Dusk In Us"
The legend that is Converge returns with their 9th studio album, “The Dusk in Us”. How does it stack up with the band’s other 8 albums, and what does this record represent for the band itself? At 5 years since their last release, this is the longest break in between albums since the band's inception over 20 years ago. Firstly, very few “metal” bands can be heard and instantly identified, especially one as chaotic as Converge. They have always been a mix of several aggressive genres smashed together and this record is no different. Bottom line, if you love Converge there is a lot here to love, if you’re not already a Converge fan then this may not be the best introduction to the band.
Converge has returned to their roots with respect to the pure raw feel of the record but has also grown as a band. Staple members of the band Jacob Bannon and Kurt Ballou handle the vocals and artwork, and guitar and production respectively, creating an intentionally focused force to be reckoned with. The band has always seemed to walk the line between melodic passages and chaotic, at times bone-crushing riffs, and this album delivers on that hallmark…mostly.
The theme of melody-versus-aggression follows throughout most of the album in a way only Converge can seem to balance. The album’s opening song and second single “A Single Tear”, opens with an intricate guitar riff that leads into the emotive and “catchy” chorus, a fitting opening track that represents the album as a whole much better than the somewhat drab and meandering self-titled track. Some tracks focus more on the melody and some more on the chaos, and BOY is there chaos. “Arkhipov Calm” is a punishing and grinding track that never lets up. “Murk & Marrow” in the same vain is pure slamming dissonance, complete with syncopated drums that build a sense of unease as the track closes out. ‘Cannibals’ is essentially a grind song with some rhythm thrown in for fun. Many tracks, in fact, most tracks, never tip the scales more than they need to.
However, the self-titled “The Dusk in Us” is oddly the weakest track on the album. It seems to float and meander on while coming across as self-serving. Along with “Thousands of Miles Between Us”, the band seems to be channeling a Deftonesian aesthetic which wallows and falls flat. While these songs change up the pace and help balance out the album, they are out of place. Luckily, most tracks on the album tend to balance the chaos nicely that gives Converge their recognizable manic demeanor. The feel of this album is certainly different from previous Converge records in that it is not quite as “saturated” as previous installments, most notably on guitar which is less percussive in its delivery. Lyrically, the album seems to deal with bitterness, perhaps referring to an abusive childhood, with themes of despair and resentment. The tone of voice conveys this general sense, but of course, if you’re listening to Converge for the lyrics then you’re barking up the wrong tree. The vocals are simply used as another instrument in this sense, barking and screeching along, which compliments the feeling of frustration well.
Overall, the album gets a lot of things right. It is unforgiving when it wants to be, but missteps in some of the lighter tracks or occasional passage that doesn’t quite seem to fit. With the band returning to a rawer sound when they could have easily continued with a growingly polished, safer sound of more recent albums, they are exploring new territory for themselves which may help broaden their appeal for a largely underappreciated band. In doing so, they simultaneously hold on to what makes them so loved in the first place and that is an unwillingness to compromise in their vision of what Converge is and represents.