review: Converge’s ‘The Dusk In Us’ is an attest to their lasting power
As our metal sister site Invisible Oranges is reminding us with a week of Converge features, the different stages of Converge's career can be broken down neatly by decade. (Read the '90s segment and the '00s segment.) In the '90s, they were still switching around their lineup and figuring out their sound. Some great stuff came out of that era, but Converge didn't write their first classic until 2001's Jane Doe, which is also the first album to feature the lineup of Jacob Bannon, Kurt Ballou, Nate Newton and Ben Koller that they still have today. (Jane Doe was also the last album to feature Aaron Dalbec, who left shortly afterwards to focus full time on Bane.) Converge followed Jane Doe with another classic, 2004's You Fail Me, then the overlooked-but-still-great 2006 album No Heroes, and they wrapped up the '00s with the guest-filled, ambitious 2009 album Axe to Fall, which at this point is probably fair to call their third certifiable classic. That run of four albums in the 2000s will probably always go down as Converge's finest, most popular, and most influential run as a band. The four albums in that run work so well as four different parts of one whole. Jane Doe felt like the start of something great, and Axe to Fall felt like a grand conclusion.
That brings us to the 2010s, which, going by this decade rule, is the third stage in Converge's career. And it truly does feel like a new era of Converge began with 2012's All We Love We Leave Behind. For one, they're less prolific than they used to be (though all four members are involved in several other projects). We're only just getting a followup to AWLWLB now, The Dusk In Us, making for the longest break between Converge albums ever. Coming off the lightning-in-a-bottle 2000s run, there's also the sense that AWLWLB and The Dusk In Us are albums that are happening after something monumental, and exist separately from that. What's so pleasantly surprising is that these new albums stand tall next to Converge's classics. It's been 23 years since Converge's first album and over 25 years since their first demo, which is a really long time to be a band that hasn't run out of steam -- especially with music this aggressive, which tends to be a young person's game. For bands that've been in the game this long, fans tend to demand a hefty chunk of old songs at live shows. The past few times I've seen Converge, they've loaded their sets with AWLWLB material and the crowds have loved it. Converge are curating and headlining two days of Roadburn 2018, and at one they'll play You Fail Me in full and at the other they'll play the new album in full. I have a feeling that's going to go over just fine, because Converge's new albums aren't just passably good; they're great and they come with genuinely huge anticipation each time. As far as "event albums" in the hardcore and metal underground go, Converge albums are about as close as it gets to this scene's equivalent of a new Kanye or Beyonce album. And The Dusk In Us deserves that kind of anticipation. It may not be as embedded in my brain as You Fail Me is, but I'd be just as excited to see Converge perform it live.
One thing that does not change as Converge's career progresses, is that they really know how to open an album. Some of Converge's best songs are album openers, and The Dusk In Us opener "A Single Tear" really kicks things off with a bang. Like the Axe to Fall and AWLWLB openers, it begins with Ben Koller's drumming and Kurt Ballou's guitar work at their most complex, throwing you head first into the band's dizzying aggression. They take the song through metallic breakdowns, screamo-y quiet parts, and post-rocky climaxes, all while J Bannon delivers some of the album's most screamalong-ready lines. It feels built for the stage, and I doubt it'll take long for those screamalongs to start happening for this one every night, as Converge continue to tour their asses off.
As any great Converge album does, it's got the short, fast, and loud punk songs ("Eye of the Quarrel," "Broken by Light," "Cannibals") and some brutal metal ("Arkhipov Calm"), plus some stuff that's actually kinda pretty (the title track and "Thousands of Miles Between Us"), and plenty of the in-between. You probably know what to expect from those first two categories on a Converge album at this point, but it's those latter two categories where the band is still finding ways to be unpredictable.
On the title track, the album's longest song at seven and a half minutes, they start out in quiet, clean, desert-rock territory, with J Bannon whispering the way he did on his Wear Your Wounds solo album earlier this year. The song builds and builds at a glacial pace, waiting until the very end to explode into Converge's trademark metallic hardcore. "Thousands of Miles Between Us" also starts out with whispering but the music is louder from the start. And instead of ever bringing their metallic side or their screams back in, Converge take this one into similar anthemic alt-rock territory that they took "Coral Blue" on the last album. Coming right after two of the fastest and heaviest songs on the album, "Thousands of Miles Between Us" feels like the light at the end of a tunnel.
Of the songs that find more of a middle ground between Converge's heaviest and lightest sides, two were released as early singles, "Under Duress" and "I Can Tell You About Pain," and both made for a great lead-up to the record. On the former, they slow things down just a bit to let the song breathe and make room for both gruesome riffs and a tamer, scream-sung chorus. The latter starts out as one of their fast/frantic ones like "A Single Tear," with its whiplash-inducing pace letting up to allow for some desperate shouts about halfway through, which eventually make way for a crushing, headbanging ending. They probably could've also given the single treatment to the similarly frantic "Wildlife" or to "Trigger," a noisy, Jesus Lizard-ish song with a repeated "WAS IT WORTH IT?" that begs to be shouted along to live. Then there's the perfectly titled "Murk and Marrow," which kinda sounds like Converge giving the '90s-hardcore treatment to Filth-era Swans.
Converge always know how to open their albums, and they always know how to close them too. The Dusk In Us concludes with "Reptilian," which is a hell of a way to go out. There are some huge metallic riffs (a little sludge here, a little thrash there), lots of tempo changes, clean post-rocky parts, atonal weirdness, guttural barks, and clearer, strained shouts. It's a massive song, one that finds a way to take their sound in all kinds of directions without sacrificing any of their ferocity. By the time its machine-gun chugs come to a halting stop at the song's end, nothing looks more tempting than the album's "replay" button.
The Dusk In Us will be out this Friday (11/3) via Epitaph (order yours). Until then, listen to four songs from the album, including the new video for "A Single Tear," below.
UPDATE: It's out! Stream it here: