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It Is What It Says: Converge’s “Beautiful Ruin” EP

converge beautiful ruin

In an interview shortly after the release of their latest album The Dusk In Us, Converge guitarist and producer Kurt Ballou told Canada’s Exclaim! Magazine that the band had left four songs from the recording sessions on the cutting room floor and that some of those tracks were even better than the ones that made it on the album. This statement could be read two ways. On one hand it’s a flex, suggesting that the band have an overflow of good material and that they can afford to pull their punches. Taken in context with the rest of the interview however, it takes on a frustrated and self-deprecating tone. “I think we’re all equally unhappy with what ended up on the album,” Ballou told Exclaim!. “It was a compromise.”

Last Friday, Converge fans got to decide for themselves whether Ballou’s disappointment about the final The Dusk In Us tracklist was warranted. After teasing it on Instagram, Converge released Beautiful Ruin, a four-song, six-minute EP that neatly ties a bow on the The Dusk In Us era.

Taken on its own, Beautiful Ruin is a minor release, closer in spirit to the loosies that trickled out after Axe To Fall than a standalone EP. Its songs are bite-size morsels of the metallic hardcore that listeners have come to expect from Converge. With the exception of the short and pungent guitar solo that opens “Melancholia,” there are few surprises, and it is hard to imagine that this release will introduce much in the way of new blood to the Converge Cult. Instead, the EP makes the most sense a party favor for their upcoming tour with Neurosis and Amenra.

But given that these songs could have easily ended up on the first Converge album in five years, its worth considering why they didn’t and what that tells us about the band’s editing process. They are a convenient bookend to “Eve,” another castaway that was released prior to The Dusk In Us — “Eve” was likely left off because it was too heavy to take the place of a soft song, too melodic to sandwich into the middle of a heavy section, and too long to include without screwing with the pace of the album. Beautiful Ruin, on the other, hand feels left off because it’s redundant to the material that did make it to the full-length. “Permanent Blue” is a strong piece of writing, but it moves in a straight line, where songs like “Eye of The Quarrel” and “Akrophov Calm” zig-zag. “Churches & Jailhouses” and “Beautiful Ruin” are both tight and efficient pieces of hardcore punk, but they don’t reach the same cathartic heights of “Wildlife” or the floor shaking mosh intensity of “Broken By Light.”

If I had to make the case for any single song being replaced on The Dusk In Us, I’d focus on “Trigger.” Possibly the worst song of the Ben Koller era, “Trigger” is a plodding noise rock pastiche that plays to none of Converge’s strengths. You can understand why putting this clunker on the album made sense from a diversity perspective, there’s no other song on the album that sounds like it, but for quality control I would have swapped it out for “Melancholia” which is twice as good in half the time.

Now that Converge fans have access to the entire pool of material written for The Dusk In Us, they can make their own substitutions based on their own taste. Fans of Converge’s softer side might excise tracks like “Broken By Light” and “Cannibals” to squeeze in “Eve” while their “no breakdowns = not music” contingent might do the reverse, cutting the album’s title track and “A Thousand Miles Between Us” and adding in the Beautiful Ruin tracks. The options, while not endless, are plentiful. The results you find will depend on what you want out of the band, which is ultimately subjective and unlikely to be exactly what someone else wants out of them. You can see why Ballou would leave the process a bit disappointed.

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