Wednesday 1 November 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Converge - "The Dusk In Us"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 03/10/2017
Label: Epitaph Records |
Deathwish Inc.

Today, with random acts of violence, anger and pessimism dotting our timelines, maybe Converge just now seems like a soundtrack to our contemporary apocalypse

“The Dusk In Us” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. A Single Tear
2. Eye of the Quarrel
3. Under Duress
4. Arkhipov Calm
5. I Can Tell You About Pain
6. The Dusk in Us
7. Wildlife
8. Murk & Marrow
9. Trigger
10. Broken by Light
11. Cannibals
12. Thousands of Miles Between Us
13. Reptilian

The Review:

Rarely does a timeworn saying like 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' seem more apropos as it does with a band such as Converge. It has been five years since we last heard from the storied Boston quartet, together now for just south of 30 years. Their old releases feel like they only get better with time, but there is nothing quite like a new Converge album, and experiencing how its sound evolves from its past outings.

Converge has long been hailed as a heavy music innovator, with an impressive track record. Among its accomplishments are "Halo in a Haystack," their iconic 1994 debut, and "Jane Doe," the band's 2001 breakthrough release. Converge's last record, "All We Love We Leave Behind" in 2012, received madly positive reviews. Never do words like "brutal" and "beautiful" get brought up so often in conversations about a group that encompasses metal, hardcore and punk as abrasively as Converge. Yet, those words are earned through intricate songwriting, disarmingly gorgeous arrangement and consistently pioneering approaches in an ecosystem that sometimes struggles to produce truly singular music in such a content-rich age. Epitaph's announcement of a new Converge album and the subsequent preview of the divine song "I Can Tell You About Pain" were greeted by much excitement. The clear question is what might the layoff have done for the quartet, which had previously only done two- and three-year breaks between recordings. A lot can be said for a stretch that long. "The Dusk In Us" creates that conversation even before the first listen.

Converge's greatest gift, and why it has been so universally hailed, is their ability to pour so much emotion into its vociferous musicianship. With "A Single Tear," the initial song, it feels like Massachusetts' favorite sons were never really gone, as they pick up seemingly where they left off, while managing to tread new ground. Led by Kurt Ballou's ruthless guitar, Converge's kickoff is far more sonically complex as it unfolds. It is fast and heavy, while tense and melancholy. The track, you soon learn, is about that shared experience of finding our own self-worth, and the orchestration at once creates a mood of confusion while opening up to hope. It's Converge at a brilliant clip, and seems like a promising beginning.

Vocalist Jacob Bannon has always done a masterful job of sharing such a well of anguish as well as an almost uncomfortable vulnerability. Remember his blighted words on a song like "Jane Doe" ("I want out/Out of every awkward day/Out of every tongue tied loss/I want out/Out of the burdening night sweats/Out of the rising seas of blood")? Bannon's return continues his fearlessly frank tradition in the opening, and in "Eye of the Quarrel," a dredging of old hurt and self-doubt ("I still have to wonder who let dysfunction in/The little lies, distorted truths/Smeared the perspective and made me love you/Queen of the garbage, prince of the weeds/My legacy won't inherit disease"). This cut in particular also proves to be a defining moment for bassist Nate Newton and Ben Koller behind the drums. They are a dominant force as a rhythm section within this song, and, later, in "Arkhipov Calm" and "Murk & Marrow."

What is fascinating as a feature in "The Dusk In Us" is how Converge's songwriting and Bannon's performance are further inspired by a world in constant conflict. Longtime fans know Converge has taken cues from a rotting world before, such as in "Sparrow's Fall" from "All the Love We Leave Behind." Today, with random acts of violence, anger and pessimism dotting our timelines, maybe Converge just now seems like a soundtrack to our contemporary apocalypse. In "Under Duress," Bannon sings, "I will never kneel and kiss your ring/The sickness spreads under duress/Compassion bends under duress/Wouldn't need a gun if you didn't have one/Don't need you to serve or protect." The title track exudes an atmosphere of resistance and defiance, cautioning, "there are monsters among us." In "Cannibals," Bannon's lyrics feel most hopeless, reminding us that, if opportunism and parasitism are left unchecked, "we will not survive." Yet Converge cleverly avoid naming names or getting too topical. Instead, the band speaks to a more universal, perhaps even timeless, story: that of good and evil, oppression and freedom, self-destruction and redemption. Those are themes that are long a staple in metal and heavy music, and Converge draw them out for some of their most compelling work yet.

In the book "Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth," old friends Sasha Lilley, David McNally, Eddie Yuen and James Davis investigate the popular culture and political trends that forecast a world to be reborn from the ashes of the old. The 2012 read is relevant today, and might shape some of your understanding of tales that are brought up in "The Dusk In Us." Smashing to reveal beauty comes up in fits and spurts here. By the time the album ends with "Reptilian," a standout cut for certain, Converge begin a journey that may be further explored during our growing days of rage. "We must lose sight of the shore to know what courage means," Bannon howls. "We must lose sight of who we are to know what we can be."

Whether the world must fail to succeed remains to be seen. What is not in doubt is how missed a legendary band has been, and just how important their return truly is.

"The Dusk In Us" is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook