And so here we are, another album by Converge. “The Dusk In Us” is the 9th studio album by the Massachusetts metalcore outfit. 5 years after their last album “All We Love We Leave Behind”, there has been a lot of buzz and anticipation for this latest effort from a band that is in its 27th year and only getting better.
The album starts off in typical fashion for a Converge record, this being an instant reminder of the typical conventions that the band display. An upbeat opener and latest single: “A Single Tear” has a nicely developed, jangly guitar line sporting a lightly crunched tone that provides clarity for the meandering melody. It has a frantic feeling until the chorus, when the tempo halves and a simple chugging guitar part enters, giving a foundation to the ‘call/reply’ vocal attack between the band’s backing chants and vocalist Jacob Bannon filling the gaps with his trademark, dog-like bark.
Another single worth highlighting is “Under Duress” that kicks off with a thunderous bass part similar to Godflesh, before a monster riff comes in to serve as the verse’s backbone. A slow-paced track that plods in a very gritty, punctuated fashion. Throw in some other typical Converge trademarks with some complex phrasing that probably goes some way to explaining their comparisons to the ‘mathcore’ genre. The chorus draws on an influence I hear through most of their albums going back to even some moments on their classic album, “Jane Doe” released in 2001; this influence being a vocal style highly reminiscent of Fugazi and their melodic and tuneful, harmonised shouting.
The frantic “Arkhipov Calm” reminds me of The Mars Volta at their hard to follow best. I’ll be here for a good while, trying to learn the phrasing of this introduction. The skill to pull it off is exemplary, the rhythm section comprising Ben Koller on drums and Nate Newton on bass is one of the best out there, hands down. This kind of creativity is something that every Converge album boasts, constantly maintaining the core sound while expanding out into new territory. Redefining and reaffirming what Converge as an entity, represents.
Moving to the half way point of the album, we are treated to one of the longer tracks in the band’s back catalogue, the title track. The song is a slow burner that erupts near to the end, drums only entering the fold in the second chorus. What is more striking is the vocal approach from Jacob Bannon; namely that he is singing, not shouting or screaming. Although his other band, Wear Your Wounds has a lot more examples of this style, in a Converge context, this is certainly a new layer to the band, and it’s one I love. The verses are almost whispered, words are tentatively and airily delivered in subdued fashion while an empty guitar holds the foundations with further atmospheric guitars way off to the back of the mix. The chorus is more driven, where a more constant feeling rhythm from Kurt Ballou’s guitar takes over. The singing steps up, moves up an octave and the vocals have a clarity that allows them to shine through the mix. Bannon’s lyrical prowess are partly responsible for my appreciation of lyrics in general. They are more abstract, less obvious and more ambiguous. Throughout any album, but certainly this song, there are some fantastic stand out moments “Just a broken mirror to reflect”; “Time to rise above the noise”. The track continues to develop into a massive crescendo that builds into an anthemic, alternative rock sounding middle section and ending. It never feels as long as it is due to being so engaging throughout.
What I noticed about this album on first listen was that it is definitely a typical Converge album, everything a fan would want is here but it feels like the elements that are usually drawn on are all exaggerated. The heavier moments are heavier; softer moments are more emotional and fragile; the complexity has ramped up and the weirder moments are weirder still.
Talking of weirder moments. We need to talk about “Murk & Marrow”. The eighth track on the album was on my first listen, thought to be the second half of the seventh track. The sequencing and change of track is subtle. Track seven ends and melts down immediately into number eight with a very odd sounding, almost bowed guitar(?). It grinds, slides and turns. The sound is spooky, tense and this noise of the introduction serves as the mortar to the bricks of the song. The track is highly progressive and experimental. The structure of the song is strange and it almost feels like it was pieced together randomly. This is not a criticism, it’s simply Converge adding a new layer to their sound and exploring the next dimension it seems.
As the album progresses into its latter stages another familiar influence crops up again that can be heard on most of the band’s previous releases. “Trigger” is seemingly a fan favourite you start to notice when delving into Twitter reaction to the album. The introduction and verses are similar to the noise rock stylings of The Jesus Lizard. The misleading bass line that when heard solo gives the listener an impression of a more upbeat tempo only for the drums to enter and surprise, pushing against the bass line’s drive. For fans of The Jesus Lizard think “Monkey Trick” or “Then Comes Dudley” from 1991’s “Goat”. Fugazi and The Jesus Lizard feel like a key influence on the band to me. These influences add an interesting layer to their baseline inspiration from hardcore.
On a side note, every year, Spotify premium users receive an email summarising their listening habits, trends and incorporate various stats. I was in the top 5% of Fugazi listeners!
My expectations for this album were high as I am a fan of the band and their development over the years. These expectations were exceeded in ways that were surprising, confirming the band still have much to offer. Each track is solid and invaluable to the album with no filler whatsoever. Ending with another single released prior to the album’s release, “Reptilian”. The track begins with a glassy, clean yet sinister sounding guitar line that hints at the huge fury of the song to follow as it kicks in proper. A real ending to an incredible journey of an album and one the best collections of guitar riffs in a song to date from the band.